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THE OFFICIAL SD EZINE Introduction by Steve Upham The Devil Went Down To Swansea by Bob Lock Life-o-Matic by Paul Kane Artwork Showcase : Michel Bohbot Offerings by Paul Edwards Website News : Latest online updates Drinkle’s Tale by Jane Frank Small Press News : Atomic Fez Joanna Banana by Ian Cordingley Perfectly Reasonable by Matt Finucane The Glass Aquarium by John T. Carney Cover Creation : Tutorial by Michel Bohbot Laid To Rest by Glenn Stuart Reading Zone : Titles worth checking out!

Published by

Screaming Dreams The stories in this eZine are works of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Cover illustration Copyright Š Michel Bohbot 2004 All content remains the Copyright of each contributor and must NOT be re-used without permission from the original Copyright holder(s). Thank you. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without prior written permission from the publisher.

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STEVE UPHAM

I

don’t know where all the time goes these days. The hours pass into days, days into weeks and weeks into months. All in the blink of an eye! Or so it seems. Even though I’m still not working my day job at the moment, I still don’t appear to have enough hours in the day. I’ve been keeping busy and making some good progress in certain areas, but I’m further behind with my overall plans than I would like. Don’t give up on me just yet though, as I’ll get there in the end! As you are probably already aware, the Screaming Dreams website has received a complete makeover recently. It took a lot longer than I thought, but I’m glad I made the effort to overhaul the site at this point. The feedback so far has all been positive, so I hope it will make it easier and more enjoyable for visitors to browse through all the pages now. Let me know what you think anyway. See the screenshot later in this issue. The latest book title, and the first SD hardback edition, is now available to order online. Clinically Dead & Other Tales of the Supernatural by David A. Sutton was originally published a few years ago by Crowswing Books, but unfortunately went out of print shortly afterwards. But thanks to David and Sean, I was able to republish this title under the SD brand. The cover features the same artwork as before, by Harry O. Morris, but I’ve redesigned the text overlays on the new edition. If any of you missed this book the first time around, be sure to grab a copy now! So what’s next, I hear you ask? Well, I have to focus on getting the next two SD books ready for print, but as money is pretty tight at the moment I don’t have an exact release date for either yet. I’ve actually been doing a little fund-raising lately and taking on a few paid artwork commissions and website design jobs, in order to get together enough cash to pay for the next print run! But it’s quite tough in the current economic climate as everyone is cutting back on their spending right now. I’ll be doing my very best to get the next books out as soon as I can though, so keep watching. -1-


BOB LOCK

P

erhaps you wouldn’t consider the city of Swansea in South Wales a centre of the paranormal or of strange happenings. More than likely an image of a coal-based industrial town, busy port, or the birthplace of Dylan Thomas would jump to mind before any supernatural occurrence. However, Swansea might just surprise you. Here are only a few of the mysterious things that have arisen there over the years. Take for instance The Grand Theatre Ghost, some say the white-clad apparition that appears in the old theatre in the city centre is Dame Adelina Patti the famous opera diva, others argue that it is the manifestation of a young actress named Jenny who, after appearing in a play in the theatre, rushed off to catch a newly commissioned steam-liner which was making its inaugural voyage to America. The ship was called The Titanic. Or what about the National Trust-owned Rhossili Beach which is renowned for its ship-wrecks? The beach boasts a plethora of spectres which includes a vicar riding a ghostly steed through the foamy tide; some think it to be the Reverend John Ponsonby Lucas who was the rector of a small church on the downs between 1855 and 1898. Another visitor to the sands is Squire Mansell, a local landowner who in the 19th century found a ship-wreck full of gold and drove his four horses and coach manically up and down the beach trying to retrieve it all, they say he is still doing it today… All possibly true, but all unprovable —unless you witness the apparitions yourself! However, there is one ‘apparition’ that can be seen regularly and his existence is easily proven, he is ‘Old Nick’ the Swansea Devil and this is his story: In the 1890s it was decided that Swansea’s St. Mary’s Church was to be rebuilt and the Church Council commissioned designs from various sources. Amongst those who put forward proposals was a local Swansea architect, who was disgruntled when his plans were rejected in favour of a rival’s. The rival was Sir Arthur Blomfield and the architect was so incensed with the Council’s decision to accept Blomfield’s plans over his own, that he purchased a row of cottages fronting onto the newly built church. These he immediately demolished to provide land on which he built a building which he designed himself. It was a grotesque edifice and featured a strange and horrible -2-


BOB LOCK characteristic — a wooden effigy of Satan. It is said that the architect cursed St Mary’s Church with these words: "My devil will leer and laugh; for at some time in the future he will see St Mary's burned to the ground." For over forty years Old Nick glared at St Mary’s Church whilst it stood strong against the architect’s curse, then, one night in February 1941, the skies above Swansea became black with German bombers and during ‘The Three Nights’ Blitz’ St Mary’s Church and the surrounding area was hit by incendiary bombs. The church burned to the ground along with many other buildings in the vicinity, however, one building survived unscathed and one witness to the bombing gloated silently. Old Nick’s prophesy had at last come true. In 1962 Old Nick’s reign finally came to an end when the architect’s garish building was demolished to make way for Swansea’s post war modernization. The wooden effigy was seemingly lost in the demolition and the re-built St. Mary’s Church must have breathed a sigh of relief. However, the story doesn’t end there, when The Quadrant Shopping Centre was built on the old location of the architect’s building, a local historian tracked Old Nick to a garage in Gloucester and brought him back to Swansea where he was once again placed upon a wall over-looking the church, this time inside the shopping centre and within easy view of passersby and against the wishes of certain members of the Church fraternity. The effigy remained perched in that location, even though many people complained of an air of foreboding and evil around him, until The Quadrant was revamped and Old Nick was moved away and placed in storage. Although he was due to be re-installed in his original position after the refurbishment it was thought prudent to place the effigy in a less prominent location and now only the keen-eyed might spot him as he still leers from behind the protective glass of -3-


BOB LOCK an upper window. Over one hundred years later his eyes stare unblinkingly at St. Mary’s Church once again. One cannot help but wonder if the curse has been satisfied and why would anyone want to place Old Nick in such a favourable position again? Copyright © Bob Lock 2009

Drop by Bob’s blog to see what strange things he’s been doing lately. Yes, the above image shows Bob has indeed turned into a Vulcan! bob-lock.blogspot.com

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PAUL KANE

J

eff woke rested. But then he always did. Why wouldn’t he? He was sleeping on the Snoozeaway adjustable bed, which, as he had explained to his wife June just last night, could be adjusted to any position, plus the mattress moulded itself to the sleeper’s body – thus allowing for a deep and satisfying sleep. But something was different today, something… June was already awake, and was lying beside him staring emotionless at the ceiling. Then a smile broke on her face, a big fake grin, and she seemed to rise up sideways out of the bed, her hair immaculately permed using the latest in home hair-styling technology from Bevnon, simultaneously curling and nourishing each lock of hair – as she’d explained at great length when she’d been demonstrating how it worked. “Morning Jeff,” she trilled, as she got out of bed and stretched. Then she ran her hands down her long nightdress, not in any kind of seductive way – more’s the pity – but rather to illustrate that the material hadn’t creased overnight. “Can you believe it? I’ve been in bed seven hours and it’s stayed silky smooth,” she said, beaming. But not to him…never to him. To the thin air over his shoulder as he himself rose: using the remote to lift his side of the bed. It was how they always talked, off past each other’s shoulders, never directly looking at each other. “And all for only nine-ninety-nine. Now that’s what I call a real bargain!” Jeff nodded. The Deluxo Teasmaid was already percolating, and June gestured to it with her hands like a model on a game show, waving them around it as she explained all the special features: just press this button for milk, this one for sugar… After pouring him a cup, she went into the adjoining bathroom and he heard the shower begin. Something was different, he felt different… Jeff got up off the incredibly comfortable bed, and went through to join her. He got a start when she peeked round the side of the curtain, raving about the new Aquatonics shower gel they’d invested in. June was so impressed in fact, that she began making strange noises in there, the kind of noises Jeff couldn’t ever remember her making with him. “Yes, yes, YES!” she shouted. Shaking his head, Jeff squeezed a length of toothpaste onto his electric toothbrush, talking to the mirror as he cleaned his teeth. “It’s the triple stripes, you see,” he burbled, “that tackle bacteria and bad breath. And the Yaun -5-


PAUL KANE vibrating triple-action brush that dislodges plaque from your teeth, leaving them shining so white…” he gave a little chuckle, “you’ll dazzle everyone!” “What was that, sweetheart?” June asked, taking a break from her orgasmic pleasures with the gel. “Oh, nothing,” said Jeff. You’re different… Back in the bedroom, Jeff went over to the wardrobe. As he dressed in his shirt and trousers, he felt an uncontrollable urge to walk up and down parading them in front of June, explaining about the anti-crease cut and the liquidresistant thread. A freshly dried June, for her part, did the same: first walking up and down in her camisole and shorts set, hand on her hips explaining that it was part of the Janice Pickard Intimates collection: a fabulous designer, she assured him. “The camisole top can also be worn on an evening out,” she said to Jeff, again shooting for well over his shoulder. Next, she put on a light summer dress, which she told him was practical for either inside or outside on days like this. The kids, Jamie – five – and Janet – eight – were already up by the time they made their way into the kitchen. Jeff and June found them sitting at the kitchen table. “Good morning, children,” June said in that ever-so-happy voice. “Good morning, Mum. Morning, Dad.” Jeff waved a hello as June went to the cupboards and took out bowls and cereal for them. “With these,” she confided in Jeff, once more looking to the left of his head, “we can give them their recommended daily intake of vitamins C, B12…” Jeff tuned out for a moment or two while she reeled off a bunch of numbers and chemicals, just like she did every morning – every single morning – coming back only when she got to the ‘whole grain’ announcement. “Plus we can make breakfast-time fun!” He watched as she poured the star-shaped things into the bowls, then went to the fridge for milk – a fridge, she informed him again, which kept everything chilled to the proper degree using science developed in the space programme. For them, she popped slices of toast into their multi-slot toaster. “See, it has space so that everyone can have a slice, if they want one.” Then she went through the whole procedure of cooking their breakfast, using “This stylish, but affordable oven with grilling function, ideal for those of us who want to -6-


PAUL KANE keep an eye on our health…” June winked at him, same as always. Then she cracked eggs into the frying pan, though not before holding the pan up to show Jeff the revolutionary hot-spot in the middle that “tells you when your pan is hot enough to cook… just imagine, no more guessing, Jeff! Just imagine!” Jeff didn’t have to, he saw it every day. And it was explained to him every day. As he sat down, he felt himself doing the same, talking to Jamie and Janet about the virtues of the particular brand of orange juice they were drinking. “So you see, children,” he said, looking past them into empty space, “you can get one of your five a day just by drinking up all your sweet and tasty Sunfilled Delish juice!” The kids smiled and nodded vigorously. During breakfast, nobody spoke much – except June, to preach about the virtues of their new Senko instant decaffeinated coffee, smelling the cup and going: “Ahhh!” Then, afterwards, she took the pots, scraped them, and placed them inside their dishwasher – which, she warned, you have to look after by destroying the limescale periodically – and then praised the tablets she was using for their ability to deal with grease and really dried on food. Why are you telling me this again? By the time the kids were ready for school and Jeff was ready for work, June already had her ironing board out, complete with steam-powered Murphy Pritchard’s iron, which left clothes already smelling lemon-fresh from the machine, shop new! June gave him a peck on the cheek and wished him a nice day. As Jeff walked outside and waved off the children – who were singing about the processed cheese in their packed lunch as they made their way to the bus-stop at the end of the street – he noticed his retired neighbour, Norman, was cutting his hedges. “Morning, Norman,” said Jeff, looking past him to the garden beyond. “That’s a mighty fine piece of equipment you’ve got there, if you don’t mind me saying so.” “Good morning to you, too, Jeff. Indeed it is. Part of the Master Gardener Collection, it retails for about fifty pounds and will slice through just about anything. Other equipment in the range includes the Master Gardener lawnmower – which can tackle even the most overgrown of lawns…” He -7-


PAUL KANE laughed at this, as if he’d just heard a particularly funny joke. “Precision strimmer, electric tiller…” Norman went on to list every single item available in the Master Gardener Collection, then finished off by saying Jeff should come round and see his shed sometime. “A steal at just under £400!” Somehow Jeff knew he had already seen Norman’s shed more times than he cared to remember. But he thanked him anyway and promised he’d be round soon for the tour. Then Jeff went on at length about the mileage and manoeuvrability of his new family car, running his hands down the side and finishing off by tapping the top. Why do I always do that? he asked himself. Why do I do that every morning? Jeff shook his head, climbed in, and started the car. He pulled out of the drive and headed off to work at the insurance company. Jeff’s working day – as always – was punctuated by people in his office telling him how competitive their own rates were, or by snacking on chocolates that they kept promising him (as if he cared) contained less than a 100 calories per bag. I just don’t give a shit… “Andy,” he said finally at about half past two in the afternoon, to his colleague who sat opposite – a balding man even though he was only in his early thirties, “do you ever think that…” “Sorry to stop you there, Jeff, but I’ve just been informed that we’re slashing our prices. Yes, that’s right, be a part of the Mutual Alliance family and you could benefit from all kinds of rewards…” Where Andy had ‘just been informed’ from was anyone’s guess, as he wasn’t even on the phone, but Jeff held up his hand to stop the patter he’d been hearing all day long. “Listen to me, don’t you ever feel that things…” he attempted to shift his gaze sideways, to look directly at Andy, but couldn’t manage it, “I don’t know, should be different to this? That life should be about more than deals and… things. What about friendship? I mean, when was the last time we went down the pub for a drink or-” Andy shook his head, looking firmly past Jeff at the window outside. “Not quite following you, there, buddy. We went out not long ago and sank a few of those cold, refreshing beers that reach the parts other-” “Forget it,” said Jeff, looking down at his desk. The papers on it were blank, -8-


PAUL KANE the screen on his computer – a top of the range Bell one, with printer and scanner thrown in – a mess of jumbled letters and words that didn’t make sense. He couldn’t remember doing any actual work today, but then he couldn’t remember the last time he’d done any work for this firm at all. “Look, I don’t feel so well…” Immediately, Andy was reaching into his pocket for the solution. “You should try these. New ‘Pain Away Extra’. They get rid of your headache and give your tired muscles a massage as well!” Jeff ignored him and got up, leaving his desk to go home. When he walked in through the front door, he found June in the living room, exercising to a DVD made by some celebrity Jeff couldn’t remember the name of. She was dressed in a leotard, complete with headband, and was jumping up and down in time to the music. “Er…Hello…” Jeff ventured. June paused for a moment from her endeavours, suddenly grinning – though Jeff suspected it was more because she’d suddenly got an audience than she was pleased to see him. She never asked what he was doing back so early, or whether he was sick, just simply said: “Jeff, this workout is fantastic. It tones not only the stomach muscles, thighs and buttocks, but also gives the cardiovascular system a good going over. You should really try it sometime.” “Yes…er, maybe…sometime.” Jeff was about to leave when June called him back again. “Next I’m going to have a go on our new elliptical trainer,” she said, pointing to a piece of equipment that looked like it had come out of the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition. “It provides a low impact workout, unlike using a treadmill, because your feet don’t leave the ground and impact during exercise.” Once more, she was looking over his shoulder when she talked. “June,” he asked her, his tone serious, “do you remember our wedding?” She looked at him, or rather beyond him, blankly. Then, suddenly, she blurted out, “My dress was an absolute bargain. Designed by J. Hourier, it was the perfect addition to any bride’s day.” “What do you remember about us, about you and me…about how you felt?” he asked, desperately trying to drag his eyes across to focus on her. She looked puzzled. Then she smiled a broad smile again, and said: “We -9-


PAUL KANE were given lost of presents, including a deluxe sandwich maker which had little trenches to prevent overspill of any melted cheese and-” “Forget it,” Jeff told her. “Doesn’t matter…” He walked away, head slumped. “Wait, Jeff sweetheart, I haven’t told you about the special features on our new rowing machine yet!” he heard June call as he headed up the stairs to the bedroom to lie down. By the time Jeff came back downstairs again, the kids were home from school and June was already preparing the dinner. Chopping up vegetables for the meal using her Ultra-blades, which, as she’d demonstrated to him time and again, could cut through anything, even metal tins. She offered to do this once more, but Jeff declined politely. June smiled and did it anyway. Then she demonstrated how her Peel-o-matic device saved her time and effort in the kitchen by shaving the skins from her potatoes. “You simply pop the spud on the spike and voila, the Peel-o-matic does all the work for you… and we can finish off the mash by using our handy Bowlinix Blender.” I think…I think I’m going mad…thought Jeff. When he took a seat beside the kids at the dinner table, they both expressed their hope to him that they were having fish fingers from Captain Codeye’s table. “They’re full of Omega-3, Daddy,” said Janet, resting her chin on her hand and looking over his shoulder, “essential fatty acids, also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids, these play a crucial role in brain function as well as normal growth and development.” What…what kid talks like that? June brought over the mash, fish fingers and veg for their dinner. “And the whole thing took only half an hour to prepare,” she said, looking directly at the wall, “bon appetit!” Jeff forked the food into his mouth, but it tasted oddly bland tonight. When the kids were tucked up in bed, he turned on the TV – their superb, high definition television set that hung on the wall ‘with picture and sound quality so real, you’ll think you’re actually there!’ – but June, excited, wanted to tell him all about the set of books that had arrived from Life and Times: “Buy the first volume, History of the Incas, and get the second one absolutely free,” - 10 -


PAUL KANE June promised. Something…something’s wrong here, very wrong. When they were getting ready for bed, he couldn’t contain it any longer. “June,” he said, “I’m starting to think that things aren’t how they’re supposed to be…” She frowned, but not at him, at the dresser beyond. “I don’t know what you mean,” she replied. “We have everything we could ever want. Including these flame retardant pillow cases, only-” “June, would you look at me!” He grabbed her arms. “Please…” She blinked several times, but couldn’t do it. He, on the other hand, was looking directly at her. He kissed her then, not as they did in the morning when she was seeing him off for work, but hard, urgent, on the lips. When he pulled back, there was no reaction whatsoever from June. Then she smiled, and Jeff’s heart skipped a beat. “I think someone’s got a touch of indigestion from dinner, now if you just take one of these Easers, they’ll bring express relief and-” Jeff shook her. “I haven’t got indigestion for Heaven’s sake… June, I can’t remember the last time we made love, can you?” His wife frowned again, but said nothing. “In fact…I can’t remember ever making love to you! We have the kids and everything, so we must have…” But they never get any older, do they? None of us ever get any older. And we do the same thing, day in, day out. “June, I’m beginning to think none of this is really real.” “Nonsense,” she told him, still looking over his shoulder. “You just need a good night’s sleep on the Snooze-away adjustable bed.” She nodded, as if it was his turn to speak. When he said nothing she prompted: “Aren’t…aren’t you going to explain about how it can be adjusted to any position and the mattress moulds itself to the sleeper’s body to allow for a deep and satisfying sleep?” Jeff let her go, and climbed into bed. It was surprisingly uncomfortable. “Goodnight darling,” said June, switching off the light, and for a moment or two he could imagine he actually had a wife that cared about him more than she did about the furnishings…but then she explained about how the energysaving light bulbs they were using would shave pounds off their next electricity bill. It took Jeff a long, long time to get to sleep, and he knew in the morning he - 11 -


PAUL KANE would feel anything but rested. It was like that the next few days. Jeff was starting to notice more and more things about the world around him, more and more that simply didn’t add up. For one thing the place was always spotless; no litter, no mess, not even in the kids’ rooms. And yes, as June kept telling him, they had dozens of cleaning implements that could reach even into the smallest of nooks or crannies, but Jeff never actually saw her using any of them, only on small sections of the carpet which she would spill wine on deliberately just to show him how easy it was to ‘foam-away’! There were no family photos in their house, either, nor albums in drawers. He had vague memories of them all going to Puntlins for holidays, but these seemed to be just fleeting images of them on rides, at a show, splashing around in a pool. Nothing more substantial than that. And when he tried to think harder about it all, the memories just slipped through his fingers and floated off, like someone trying to keep hold of the string of a balloon. The weekend came around as it always did, ahead of yet another week of ‘work’. Jeff still couldn’t get to the bottom of what he did exactly, but he must get paid for it; how else were they affording all of this stuff they didn’t really need? In spite of June trying to coax him out of bed with tea or coffee from the teasmaid, Jeff pulled the covers over his head. If she’d pushed it he might just have grabbed the pot and thrown it all over her – see what kind of reaction he got then. See if she looked over his shoulder or actually at him? He eventually surfaced around noon, bags under his eyes. Beaming, June told him that she was taking the kids out to the mall and they’d be back around teatime. “You can fix yourself something to eat using the-” Jeff held up his hand for her to stop. He couldn’t take another reeling off of the appliances in their kitchen. “But I was just going to-” “Go,” he told her. “Just go!” June’s smile slipped a little, but it was soon back, and the kids never even flinched. She bundled them out of the door and into the car, telling them about the amount of space in the boot for all their shopping. Jeff sat down at the kitchen table, head in his hands. - 12 -


PAUL KANE What’s happening to me? he asked himself. I used to be happy… But that was it, wasn’t it? He used to be too happy. Life wasn’t meant to be all sunshine and roses. It was meant to be about endurance and getting through the day, which made those special moments all the more special. And what about love? Jeff hadn’t really thought about it until lately. He should love his wife, love his kids, and they should love him…shouldn’t they? They should care, he should care. But he didn’t. He didn’t because none of this mattered. None of this felt real. Jeff banged the table with his fist; the salt seller tipped up and he watched as the tiny white grains spilled over the red chequered pattern of the table cloth, then onto the floor. Then he looked around at his oh-so perfect abode and sneered. Jeff grabbed the ketchup bottle – the sauce that ‘splatters where it matters’ – and threw it across the room. “Now we’ll see what matters,” he muttered. It made a satisfying shattering sound as it hit the wall and Jeff felt…good. Better than he had in days; better than he ever had, really. Because he actually felt something. He got up, walked across to the wall and touched the redness there with his fingers. They came away wet and he rubbed his lips with the sauce. Norman was outside waxing his car when Jeff came round. They exchanged hellos, though Norman said nothing about the fact Jeff was still in his dressing gown. Then Norman attempted to tell him about the new miracle waxing treatment for cars he’d just discovered that protected the paintwork against some of those irritating scratches that can occur when you’re out and about, but he didn’t seem to want to know. He was more interested in taking that tour of the shed. Norman’s smile widened, if that were at all possible, and he told him: “Of course, of course. Just follow me.” Once they were at the shed, and he’d unlocked it, Norman heard Jeff say from behind him. “Now I have something to show you.” Norman turned and saw the knife in Jeff’s hand. “They can cut through tin cans, you know.” Norman smiled and nodded. He knew all about them, had some of his own indoors. What he wasn’t sure about was why Jeff was - 13 -


PAUL KANE choosing this particular moment toThe knife slid effortlessly into Norman’s gut, and his smile turned into a grimace. But all he could think about was he wouldn’t be able to finish waxing the car now... When June arrived back with the kids, she opened the front door and got a shock. They dropped the shopping and stood there, mouths gaping wide. The house had been trashed. Not just the hallway, which looked like a herd of stampeding elephants had trampled through it, but the living room too, on their right. Someone had smeared paint all over the walls in there, upending the chairs and couch, knocking the TV off the wall and smashing it. Though she didn’t go upstairs, June suspected those rooms were in a similar state. When they came through into the kitchen, they saw Jeff. His hair was wild and he still hadn’t had a shave with the new Five Blade contour razor she’d bought him, which clung to every curve of his chin. The first words out of June’s mouth were. “Jeff, how could this have happened when we’re protected by Securisense? The 24 hour alarm system that rings through to a special centre when triggered, alerting the police to-” “We haven’t been burgled, June,” Jeff said evenly, though his look was just as wild as his hair. “I did this.” He was studying her for some kind of reaction. So June smiled. “Honey, that’s okay. We can soon get the place looking ship-shape again; that paint will come right off with some Grime-Gone.” “Don’t you want to know why?” he asked her. June frowned, then she smiled. “You need to sit down and take it easy, have an instant Creambury’s Hot Chocolate and-” “I don’t want a fucking hot chocolate!” Jeff shouted suddenly. “Now stop fucking well grinning…and look at me!” June continued to smile, looking over his shoulder as she offered another solution: a soothing bath with aromatic oils. “Look. At. Me!” snapped Jeff. “Or so help me I’ll…” June continued to gaze past him, not even properly facing him when she heard the motor start up. Jeff pulled something out from behind his back and held it up. “Norman’s - 14 -


PAUL KANE kindly lent me this,” he said. “Would you like to see how it works?” Strangely, June and the kids all nodded. That’s what’s wrong with this place…They can’t resist a demonstration…He’d given them a chance to get away… “Okay,” said Jeff, coming towards them with the chainsaw. When he dug the teeth into June’s shoulder, he added, shouting above the cries, “See how easily it cuts through human flesh and bone?” June looked at him now, finally looked as her blood sprayed across his face, and he saw fear in her eyes. How? How…and why? But it was too late. It was all too late. First June, then the kids: who instead of running were watching their father as he talked them through it all. Then him. Afterwards they’d wake up somewhere else, somewhere normal…escape from all this. Wake up…rested. He ignored the screams because this wasn’t real, was it? None of this was life. Not real life… It couldn’t be. This was all simply life-o-matic, a pale imitation. He nodded, continuing his labours, trying not to wince at the sounds the blade made as it cut into his family. They sounded disturbingly real. He shook his head. It was Life-o-Matic, that’s all…a show. Just Life… Life-o-Matic. Just Life. O. Matic. Copyright © Paul Kane 2009

Read more about Paul’s work at : www.shadow-writer.co.uk

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MICHEL BOHBOT

T

he cover art on this issue of Estronomicon is by the extremely talented Michel Bohbot. I have been a big fan of his artwork for many years and it’s an honour to feature his work in the eZine. Michel is a former President of the San Francisco Society of Illustrators and has taught Illustration and Business Practices at the Academy of Art College, San Francisco. Currently he teaches an intro to Photoshop, Illustrator, Painter and C4D at Berkeley City College.

Sisters Dark : Copyright Š Sony Games 2009

In between regular jobs he has finished an illustrated novel titled Zintara with his brother. Their agents are shopping it around now. He has won several gold and silver awards from the San Francisco Society of Illustrators as well as awards of merit from the New York and Los Angeles Societies, as well as being featured in several Spectrum Annuals. - 16 -


MICHEL BOHBOT

Zombie Warrior : Copyright Š Michel Bohbot 2009

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MICHEL BOHBOT Although he was born in California, Michel Bohbot spent most of his youth in Marseilles (France), Casablanca (Morroco) and New York. He started as a pre-med student taking art classes for fun. Two classes short of his BS degree he switched his major to art for his BA (his mother being a fine artist helped to smooth the decision over). He continued studying in Manhattan taking night classes at The School of Visual Arts and Parsons School of Design while selling fancy women's shoes on Madison Ave. His illustration career started with him painting in acrylic and oil. Just before moving to California he added pastels to his palette.

Arx Fatalis : Copyright Š Jowood Games 2002

Michel began using the computer at the urging of art directors, to make color adjustments. He doesn't see these technologies as the end of traditional media, but as the newest and wackiest box of Crayolas to play with!

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MICHEL BOHBOT

Battle Scarred : Copyright Š Michel Bohbot 2003

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MICHEL BOHBOT His ability to create dramatic visuals has attracted clients internationally. Over the years he has worked on video games, logos, books, posters and magazines as well as brochures, and annual reports to name a few. These days he usually combines digital with traditional rendering. But as always, he uses whatever techniques will best solve his client's visual problem.

Deathsqad Medicine : Copyright © Michel Bohbot 1998

His clients include: Avon Books, LucasArts, Sony, Electronic Arts, Penguin Putnam, Warner Books, Vivendi/Universal, Mythic, Sierra, Intel, Holt Rinehart, Activision, Auto FX, Amblin Entertainment, Venture Cal, Blue Orange games, Michael Crichton, Ariba, Del Monte, Firaxis, Kaiser Permanente, Verband der Metall, Pacific Bell, Evans Properties, Days of Wonder, Progressive Media (Denmark), San Francisco Giants, Primitai, Group Dayan, P.C. Gamer magazine, DronolanÕs Tower, Puffin books, 21st Century Toys, Macfarms, Kensington Pub., San Jose Sharks, Jekyll and Hyde Inc, Juniper, Knopf Delacorte Dell, Tri-King, N2d, Agesong, History Channel, Dreamcatcher, United Nations, Ideas Made Real, Visa, Wiley & Sons, Cortona, Byron and Lakeside Park, ValuSoft, Weekly reader, Bastei Pub., Kapua Ranch, Greater Pacific, Woodfin Hotels, Valero, Wells Fargo Bank. Visit Michel’s homepage at : www.mbohbot.com - 20 -


MICHEL BOHBOT

Watchmen Poster : Copyright © DC Comics 2009

- 21 -


PAUL EDWARDS

T

heo licked his paws on the window ledge. It was open, net curtains whispered in the breeze. Margaret drifted into the room with the washing basket and set it down on the bed. She looked at her cat and her cat looked at her, eyes big and green and bright. Smiling, Margaret stuffed her clothes away into drawers and then straightened, arching her back as the sun sliced brilliantly into the room. She froze, tilted her head, smiled. “Saul!” Her boyfriend Saul hurried into the room and she pointed at the bundle of twitching feathers in the corner. He crouched, then looked at Margaret and smiled. “He’s brought you a gift.” Margaret’s gaze switched from the bird to Theo. He turned away from her bright, adoring blue eyes to stare into the sun. Saul took the dustpan and brush out of the cupboard under the sink and swept up the bird. Carefully, he tipped it into an old dusty black shoebox. He dug a small hole out in the garden, then covered the coffin with earth. Moments later he returned indoors, hanging his coat up on the banister. “Margaret?” he called. No response. Saul lingered at the foot of the stairs for a moment, head to one side, listening to the silence. Then, after a minute or two, he drifted upstairs. Margaret was staring out of the window at nothing in particular. In her arms Theo stretched and yawned and sighed. Saul watched as she stroked him, kissed him, scratched behind his ears. “Everything all right?” he asked. She didn’t answer. He went to her, placed a hand on her shoulder. She shrugged it off. “What?” he said. Her glare was cold, black, withering. As she turned from him, Saul’s shoulders sagged and he backtracked slowly, ever so slowly out of the room. She’d met him on a cold October’s day, curled up in the corner of a small, neglected graveyard. His face was dead white, accentuated by the dark makeup smeared around - 22 -


PAUL EDWARDS his mouth and eyes. His fingernails were chipped black, his hair straggly and matted with grease. She helped him up, brushing strands of greasy hair away from his eyes. The pupils were black, and she wondered if there was anything inside him at all. The wind moaned. “I…” he began. “Ssh,” she whispered, pressing a finger to her lips. “I know. I know everything.” She smiled. “You’re an angel, right? A fallen angel.” His eyes roved over old markers, arched tablets of slate, crumbling mausoleums, brittle, white angels made from bone white marble. “Death is what makes us beautiful,” she whispered as she stroked his hair. “Our flaws are the most interesting part about us, don’t you think?” She led him home and laid him on her bed. His leather coat and his dark blue shirt dressed the back of her chair. His skin was cling-film, taut over thin, sharp bones. She fed him, watered him, nursed him back to health. Then, one night, as they lay listening to the rain together, he turned to her and said, “Other people seem so at ease with the world. But most of the time I don’t know how to react.” Her thin, trembling fingers stroked his face, his eyelids, his whiskers. “I love you,” he whispered, softly. She sat up, frowning, mouth turned down, tight brows squinting her eyes. “But how can I believe that?” she said. “How can I possibly know?” Saul filed his fingernails into points. He stared at them for a moment, then laughed as Theo darted behind the back of the sofa. “I could watch him for hours,” Margaret said from the darkest corner of the sitting room. Her mouth twisted into an odd sort of smile. “He really loves me, doesn’t he. That’s why he brings those…things into the house.” She watched Theo come tumbling out from behind the sofa, ball of string rolling between his back legs. Saul turned to her; somehow, his eyes were brighter, colder that evening. “What time are you out?” “Emily, Madeleine and Gabriel are picking me up at seven,” said Margaret. “We’re going to a couple of pubs then a club. I wouldn’t wait up.” Saul stared into space. “Hey,” said Margaret, nudging him, “you’re the one I’ll come home to. No - 23 -


PAUL EDWARDS sulking, okay?” “Sulking?” “Don’t give me that! You do it every time.” She flashed him a smile, though her eyes were cold blue and searching. Saul knew what she was asking with that smile. Margaret stepped out of the club. Rain shivered between buildings of blind, black glass. Her friends were still inside, but she’d had enough; she wanted to go home. She tottered along the street in her heels. As she rounded a corner, a figure looked up at her from beneath a streetlight. He was dressed in a long, tattered leather coat, and his dead white face shone like a cracked moon. She blinked. The figure vanished. There was nobody there. She turned and hailed a taxi. Minutes later it shuddered to a halt outside her dark little house at the end of the street. She paid the fare, hurried out the cab, rushed into the house. “Saul?” She closed the door behind her, drifted into the sitting room. In the darkness, bright green eyes shone up at her. “Theo!” The cat scampered to her and she scooped him up into her arms. Saul was in the kitchen. For a second Margaret thought he was washing up. Then her nostrils flared at a sickly sweet smell and she glanced towards the bathroom door. “He was no one we knew,” Saul said, his wide eyes betraying cruel indifference. “He was alone out there.” Tentatively, hesitantly, Margaret approached the door, pushed it open slowly, slowly. A man was in the bathtub. Margaret stared at him, then snapped a hand over her mouth. His face was a mess of flesh, splintered bone, clotted gore. “My God,” she said, turning, smiling, eyes filling with tears. “Thank you. Thank you!” Saul smiled. “You’re welcome,” he said, then went back to licking the blood - 24 -


PAUL EDWARDS off his hands over the sink. Copyright © Paul Edwards 2009

You can find Paul online at MySpace and watch for more info regarding his future collection of short stories, Now That I've Lost You.

LATEST SD BOOK RELEASE Clinically Dead & Other Tales of the Supernatural by David A. Sutton Ten weird tales of supernatural transformation, myth and obsession.

Table of Contents The Holidaymakers Changing Tack Photo-Call Those of Rhenea How the Buckie was Saved Clinically Dead Tomb of the Janissaries La Serenissima In the Land of the Rainbow Snake · Monkey Business · · · · · · · · ·

Hardback Edition

£20 (+ postage) Don’t delay, order your copy now!

www.screamingdreams.com - 25 -


SCREAMING DREAMS

T

he new SD website design is now online. Enter the dark domain if you dare. A big thank you to Vincent Chong for allowing me to incorporate his artwork in the header graphic. Those black eyes are so hopelessly inviting!

What will you find at Screaming Dreams? Books - Nine titles in print so far, with more on the way Estronomicon - All the issues of this eZine available to download eBooks - Longer fiction available as free PDF downloads Artwork - Prints and previews of my own work plus event photos, free software and lots more to come! www.screamingdreams.com - 26 -


RALPH HORSLEY

A

fter designing the SD website, I was very pleased to be asked by Ralph to help give his portfolio site a new look. You can now browse his amazing artwork using the slideshow feature, or view the individual images at higher resolution with the pop-up displays. There is also a new blog integrated on the homepage, for you to keep up with the latest news.

www.ralphhorsley.co.uk - 27 -


BEN BALDWIN

I

t appears to be the season for website overhauls! Artist Ben Baldwin has also recently given his site a makeover with a crisp and stylish mono scheme. Be sure to drop by and check out his artwork the next time you are online.

www.benbaldwin.co.uk A selection of prints are also available to buy from the POD Gallery

- 28 -


JANE FRANK “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” - Robert Frost

T

he weather had already turned mean and ugly when I opened the front door that Saturday afternoon, so I wasn't surprised in the least to see Drinkle there, leaning wearily against the graying jamb, his lapels turned up against the buffeting winds. I opened the door just far enough to let his wizened body in, while keeping out - as best I could - the drops splattering away from narrow shoulders. Once in, he clearly didn't look well, not that I was expecting he would, after all his travails. Life had been hard on Drinkle, but then whomever said Life would not be hard on us all? It was not a thought we liked to dwell on, but seeing Drinkle in the doorway brought the truth home: we were all headed to same place. With some of us traveling that road at a bit swifter pace. Sprinkle, meanwhile, had heard the front door chime and had come in from The Library, as we euphemistically called our seedy Los Angeles 1940’s bungalow’s book-cramped living room, with a fuzzy warm lap blanket in hand. He held it out to Drinkle, clearly not interested in wrapping him in it. The once popular "moon and stars" motif, so much a part of our youth, was lost on the wasted Drinkle, who was barely able to acknowledge another human in the room. He was so weak! “So fragile!” Sprinkle murmured pityingly, voicing the obvious. I quickly interceded, shook the vintage blanket open and draped it around his thin shoulders, while Sprinkle turned his mumbling into something about a "warm drink". It seemed the sympathetically right thing to say at the time, although his suggestion was surely motivated more by convenience than kindness, since drink - not warm - was already at hand. I put an arm around Drinkle's bony shoulders, and - Sprinkle following listlessly behind - assisted him into the library, where family awaited. Hinkle was melodramatically posing by the mantel, one elegant elbow up on the faux mahogany board, the other bent to hold a cup of whiskey to his mouth. It was a real 1950's dixie cup, one of the last that had kept its waxy surface intact, and it was his favorite for matching the mood of such bitterly inclement weather. - 29 -


JANE FRANK Hinkle's tall frame lurched forward at our abrupt entrance, almost as if to provide assistance, one arm flung outward from across the room, only to be quickly lowered when he saw that Finkle had the situation covered. Together, Finkle and I lowered Drinkle into the easy chair, while Tinkle forced a mug of something brown and alcoholic into his trembling hand. I, for one, was hoping that our brother would have something more interesting to say than "I’ve come to say ‘goodbye’". We had all heard that one, before. It was as old and memorable as that hoary tune, The Macarena, but without any of its nostalgic charm. We watched our brother take a sip and catch his breath, so to speak, before slumping back in the chair. He was a sorry sight. We gave him some space, in silence. Waiting. "Home is the place where...." he began, before I rudely cut him off. "We know all that," I snapped, perhaps too brusquely, taking liberties as the eldest, "what brings you home, is what we want to know." "You know why...you all know why," Drinkle spoke into his cup, taking another swig, then looked up, seeming to muster a bit of strength before our eyes. "Zinkle didn't make it, and I'm next.,” he said wearily, “I feel it in my bones." The light that briefly fired in his eyes then twinkled shut, and I wondered abstractly, how come none of us were named 'Twinkle'? It was a good name. Might the choice have protected its owner from the pessimism we brothers all shared, as one of our more distinctive family traits? “So,” he continued, in a whispery voice, “I’ve come to say ‘goodbye’”. "We're all dying I tell you, we're dying!" Finkle's high-pitched lament bounced off the flocked wallpaper and back to his mustache. That's another thing I always wanted: a mustache. And every time Finkle opened his mouth I was instantly reminded of it. I was also reminded, in that instant, of how hard it was becoming to attend to conversations like this. I was the eldest of the brothers by at least three minutes: I should be more focused. Sprinkle knelt by Drinkle’s chair, and - playing with the fringe on the fuzzy afghan - played the innocent so as to get him talking. I wouldn't say we were all ears at that point, because some of us were sadly recalling Zinkle, and how his angular, more than 6'5 body had looked even taller in repose - but we tried to look attentive. At least, I did. I involuntarily straightened my back, then noticed others (still standing) doing the same; slouching was a family trait. - 30 -


JANE FRANK His worst fears now confirmed, Finkle had taken ownership of a chair nearby, which he hitched even closer, while Hinkle, radiating empathy, had removed his elbow from the mantel and was leaning fully against it, full-face towards Drinkle, waiting for more. I could see the hairs of Finkle’s mustache twitching in anticipation. "Back in '94," Drinkle began listlessly - and immediately was stopped by collective groans. "No, no, not at the beginning," Finkle pleaded, on all our behalf, "we want to know why we're dying NOW". It was a reasonable question. I knew if I had been the one asking the question, however, it would have come out sounding like a whine. Drinkle took a long, shaky breath, and plunged in. “As we all know, early attempts at human cloning were less than successful. If Zinkle had been alive at the time of those crude experiments, he wouldn't have invested hard money (as they might say) in that particular scientific endeavor any more than he would have gambled on a time machine in the 20s.” It was so like Drinkle to honor the dead, I thought, thinking it would be unseemly to remind him that we all had lost our shirts in the crash of ‘07’. Indeed, Zinkle was the one who first suggested that we made lousy business partners. But hindsight makes geniuses of us all, and now here we all were the lot of us, up to now, perfectly matched fools (though I still wish I had a mustache) - waiting to hear from the weakest of us (that is apart from Zinkle), how it could be that we all were doomed. Just what was Drinkle getting at? I wished he wouldn’t be so damned indirect. Why was he bringing up the issue of cloning, for instance, when we were just brothers, another group of octoplets, with an uncannily strong family resemblance? “Will you stop beating around the bush,” Sprinkle said, his patience gone, and speaking for all of us. Drinkle shifted uncomfortably in his seat and tried to gain purchase with his hands on the arms of the chair, as if to rouse himself enough to lean forward and up onto the balls of his feet. He knew something, and for a moment I was convinced he knew something we all needed to know. But it was not to be. Like Zinkle - just a month earlier (and I think, in the same chair) - Drinkle lurched forward and then suddenly sank back, head tilted to the side, askew. It was over. - 31 -


JANE FRANK The doorbell rang. It would be Pinkle. The sound roused us to action. Hinkle took care of the door, while I and Sprinkle covered Drinkle’s head with the blanket that had formerly hugged his shoulders. It was really too much for us to have to deal with, and still carry on a reasonable conversation. We quickly filled Pinkle in on the news, not that he hadn’t suspected something soon as he saw Drinkle’s draped head. Pinkle was definitely looking a little peaked today. He was the oldest brother, a good twenty years older than the rest of us, and his mustache had long since turned to salt-and-pepper. While the seven of us younger ones had always been prone to arthritis and various other joint problems, Pinkle had always been the picture of health. He was a few inches shorter than the rest of us, but nevertheless had always exuded a strong, charismatic sort of leadership quality that we couldn’t help but admire. After Finkle had taken his raincoat and hung it in the hall closet, and someone had handed him a drink, Pinkle settled on the loveseat opposite Drinkle and – while peering intently at the brothers gathered around - began to speak. “It’s a miserable day to have called you all together here, I know,” adding ruefully, with a tilt of his head toward Drinkle, “especially given these ugly circumstances.” A soft sniffle came from somewhere in the room. “But as you know, family has always been important to me, and so the time has come for me to apprise you of matters which will most certainly affect you all. Indeed, the information I must share with you now has become even more timely, given Drinkle’s demise.” Now we were finally going to get at the bottom of it! With a prickle of anticipation, the hair on most of our heads, I knew, was rising in concert. “Our family history is a strange one,” he continued, “our mother was infertile and, as you’ve heard many times, felt compelled to enlist a small group of gestational carriers – artificially inseminated with Dad’s sperm – in order to increase the probability of having biologically-related children. Because the procedure was difficult and the results unpredictable, so the story goes, mother enlisted eight surrogate mothers in an attempt to successfully bring to term at least a couple of children. And,” he paused for dramatic effect, “the fruits of that effort are plain to see. Eight brothers.” There was another short silence. - 32 -


JANE FRANK “Or so you all have believed.” “When your mother died, she took me aside, and shared the truth of your birth. It has been a heavy burden for me to carry all these years, let me tell you.” Pinkle took a deep breath, leaned back, and rested his head against the cushion, looking upward at the ceiling for inspiration before going on. “Remember Uncle Harry?” Pinkle stretched his hand out for a refill, which Finkle quickly poured. The brothers nodded in unison. Harry Pinkleson was a distant memory, but a pleasant one. He would have been just about Pinkle’s age now, had he lived. There was whispered talk, of some sort of deformity, and worry that it might be a heritable family trait. But fortunately, physiologically he could have passed for any one of the brothers, so strong was the lineage of good looks. Tall, dark, and handsome, he was, with a lovely mustache that he delighted in waxed splendor, until his stroke. “Well,” Pinkle sat up and looked around the circle, “we called him Uncle but he wasn’t really Mother’s brother. He was Mother’s first son, Harry Pinkleson, and my twin brother. This would make him your brother, as well. Were it not for a small additional twist in this tale.” Suddenly, Pinkle seemed almost at a loss for words. Sprinkle urged him onward, by way of moving to again refill his cup. “Ok, so the family name is Pinkleson, and our Uncle is our brother,” Hinkle helpfully condensed the news, “my question – and here I’m sure I’m speaking for all of us when I ask this – is “why”? What he meant was, why would a brother need to pass himself off as their Uncle, but Pinkle chose to interpret it another way. “Your Mother never married, but still wanted to have children, and a family of her own,” Pinkle confided, “and to that end decided to collect some hair trimmings from her boyfriend’s mustache. My mustache.” There was a collective intake of air. “I didn’t know this at the time, of course; it was only after we ended our relationship that she disclosed she had contracted with a surrogate to carry a cloned embryo to term. And that she had decided to call him Harry Pinkleson, adjusting the father’s (my) surname, Pinkleman – to suit the situation. The child was brought up by her parents, owing to her unavoidably high workload as an executive VP at Clonedkids.com. One year later, impressed by the success of her first attempt, she decided to do it again: this time hiring seven - 33 -


JANE FRANK surrogates.” “So, while Harry and I were twin brothers, it would have been equally appropriate for him to call me “Dad”. And by extension, for you to do the same.” There was a silence so deep that even a Namibian Blind Cave Walking Fish would have a hard time working their way out of these depths. My mind was busily trying to envision the stones marking our graves, most especially, my own. “Beloved son and brother . . . Winkle Pinklemanson” Copyright © Jane Frank 2009

Watch for more of Jane’s fiction and the return of her regular collecting column in future issues. Be sure to check out her WoW-Art site if you are interested in collecting original fantasy, sf and horror paintings!

www.wow-art.com

- 34 -


ATOMIC FEZ

E

arly on the morning of May 15th, in a scene evoking the announcement of the Oscar Nomination, the new publishing house Atomic Fez Publishing was announced by its proprietor, Ian Alexander Martin. As the sky above him filled with flocks of doves and Canada Geese, Mr. Martin publicly confirmed the existence of Atomic Fez, admitting it was “one of the worst-kept secrets in the Small Press Community of late”. No doubt responding to the frequent rumours of his return to the publishing game, he was last heard from following the demise late last year of the UK-based firm Humdrumming, Ltd., which had been under his control since early spring of that year after founding publisher Guy Adams handed him the reins due to his growing number of professional writing commitments. His new venture, Mr. Martin announced, would be “a Small Press House with Large Press notions of inclusivity.” Pointing out the people are rarely only “readers of only one variety of fiction, and Atomic Fez proposes to make available as many sorts of books as time and the company ledgers permits.” When asked to explain what he was babbling about, he suddenly resembled a sidewalk proselytiser, declaring that he felt that “too often things about books are made QUITE IMPORTANT and VERY SERIOUS INDEED, casting aside anything which might be seen as ‘enjoyable’”, explaining that “the principle driving force behind certain titles being selected is simple: Books Are Fun Again!” As well as providing books in the traditional format — described by Mr. Martin as “the ‘dead tree’ variety of books using ink, paper, and bits of glue”— Atomic Fez will be also be endeavouring to tap into the latest of modern technology making available all its titles in the ‘electronic book’ format. Explaining this bi-formatted, pincer-movement approach to publishing, he explained that “the concept that either form [of publishing format] is a ‘bad’ way of getting a story into the hands of a reader is anathema to a logical mind. If you hate e-books, we have paper ones for you. If you hate paper ones, we have ‘e-books ‘to tempt you instead. Either way, we want your money. In the future,” he continued, “it is hoped that both forms [of book] can happily exist side-by-side as they have individual strengths for differing sorts of readers. - 35 -


ATOMIC FEZ After all, both forms are equally damaged when dropped in a tub full of hot water.” Sources close to the company — requesting anonymity due to threatened punishment using hi-fidelity recordings of Mrs. Miller and / or Sebastian Cabot — stated that the first title to be released by the Publisher would be a brand-new novel by the noted Welsh writer Rhys Hughes, which would likely be released early in Q3 to coincide with the British Fantasy Society’s FantasyCon 2009 in mid‑September. The book’s contents are being edited now, with final text to be established and at the printers by the start of July. While the source was unable to provide an exact price, they did allow that “something reasonable around the twenty-five dollar mark is what we’re looking at.” Further titles are entirely unconfirmed and the nature of their contents isn’t know, but Mr. Martin is ‘planning something’ for World Horror Con in South England’s Brighton, and information has leaked out regarding works from three more British authors being launched at that event in March 2010; with possibly more titles expected in the autumn of the same year, this time including writers from the Dominion of Canada. Law Enforcement Organisations did not respond to requests for comment, saying they were “very busy getting organised to deal with the crowds expected to take to the streets with hazardous materials.”

www.atomicfez.com - 36 -


IAN CORDINGLEY

“Y

ou’re boring.” Fifteen looked up from her book. “My condolences.” “But I want to play.” Thirteen leaned over the chair and grinned. “Piss,” Fifteen said, “off.” Thirteen pouted. She hovered over Fifteen, who was seated on her favourite wicker chair. It had been a lovely day. The beach stretched to the vanishing point, the garbage cans forming an emerald necklace, and the waves crashed gently against the shore. Evening, after it got too hot, when it was just right. The sky was becoming stained, as if pastels had been dragged leisurely across the horizon. Presently the sun was becoming dimmer and losing its white uniform colour and becoming a dull orange shade. “Aw, entertain me!” Fifteen gave her the finger. Thirteen brushed some hair out of her face. She could go running along the beach, through the waves, but that was too childish. She was a woman now, even if no one else thought so. Shoulder high compared to Fifteen, clearly the form she would grow into. Thirteen slid off the chair and stood at the porch’s end. Today was so boring. The shops hadn’t opened and neither had the chip wagon. Nothing to do. Seagulls flew overhead or stood on the beach, pecking at the sand or arching their bodies back before calling. No one else on the beach, tawny and vast. Really, what was wrong with her? Fifteen was reading some stupid romance book. So prissy, so serious now that her body had begun to fill out. Whereas Thirteen was a bud, Fifteen was (clogged with dew and fragile to the touch) a flower. A very annoying flower. A mischievous grin crept across Thirteen’s face. She reached over and pinched Fifteen in a place that would be humiliating and painful. “Ow!” “Joanna Banana,” Thirteen taunted. Fifteen leapt from her chair. She chased Thirteen into the house, snagging an ankle by the foot of the stairs. All the while Thirteen contained to sing: - 37 -


IAN CORDINGLEY “Joanna Banana, Joanna Banana, Joanna Banana!” Eighteen walked in. “Children!” she called. “Save me, she’s trying to kill me!” “You’re a little bitch!” “Emotional abuse!” “Bitch!” Eighteen sighed. “See what I have to contend with?” The observer, as always, said nothing. He loomed behind Eighteen, mute as always. “I need to speak with you degenerates.” “Coming!” Thirteen walked over her sister, dutifully marching towards Eighteen, standing and saluting. Eighteen shook her head. Her long hair drifted slowly, as if the long strands traveled in slow motion. Eighteen: proud, confident. What these two would turn out to be. Cute, if any boys were around to notice. “Twenty-One needs us,” she announced. “Let’s go.” “What now?” Fifteen grumbled, lifting herself off the floor. Twenty-One was like the mist: visible briefly before disappearing quietly before noon. Always walking along the beach in longer, confident stride. Fully grown: no one would deny that she was a woman now. What these two could only imagine of becoming. “Okay!” Thirteen chirped. Fifteen, surly, her default mood, crept after her and out the door. Eighteen turned after them and, the observer to her back, walked ahead. “Where are we going?” “Down the beach,” Eighteen said. “How far?” “To the end,” Eighteen said. Fifteen sighed. Going as far as the change building, that vague white triangle hidden behind a wall of dunes, was somehow the most laborious thing imaginable. The sun was fighting a running battle with a battery of puffy clouds. The temperature was rising. “Why? “That’s where we’re going.” - 38 -


IAN CORDINGLEY The shift of the wind was disconcerting: something wasn’t right, and within a moment she knew the were coming in too fast. Fifteen shook her head, banishing the sudden, unwelcome and annoyingly frequent thought from her head. Thirteen took point, striding and almost dancing as if carried by the wind along the edges of the surf and directly into the clusters of seagulls. They scattered, on foot on first but before long taking flight. Thirteen laughed. When they played they came here. Lately they hadn’t been together, but that had settled so naturally and instinctively that no one had commented. Thirteen continued to make sand sculptures, but she took mischievous pleasure at making them as obscene as possible. Fifteen walked the beach but mostly sunned herself. Eighteen mostly swam. Lord knew what Twenty-One did. Thirteen ran back. Her head in the clouds. She was always in motion, never sitting still. Fifteen always said she was a brat, but she wasn’t necessarily evil, just spirited. Then there was the legal trouble she was in briefly…well, she returned it, and was never charged, right? Her one leg skimmed through the water, bringing with it a wall of spray. “Watch it!” “Its water, not acid!” Fifteen snorted, shook her head and walked on. Thirteen snorted in response and walked towards the other two. “What is with her?” “Leave her alone,” Eighteen said. “She’s moody, she’s touchy…” “She’s fifteen,” Eighteen said. “Kids today.” Thirteen shook her head in disgust. “When I was that age…” “You were never that age!” “An old timer like me…ah, kids today!” “Get out of here!” Thirteen darted off. Running up to the dunes at the beach’s edge. Covered with waves of green grass bending in the wind. A perfect place to secretly go to the bathroom or change. “They’re quite a handful, aren’t they?” The observer said nothing. He never had and there was no indication that he would start now. - 39 -


IAN CORDINGLEY Odd that they never felt self-conscious around him. Wherever they were he was, and for the most part they put up with it. Granted Fifteen was prone to moments when she demanded he quit standing there, and Thirteen was incorrigible in getting him to acknowledge her. His strides were long and deep and did not seem to impact the sand. But his silent grey eyes betrayed the turmoil in his mind. Watching the girls, determining where exactly they fit and what fitted with them. An orange shirt, what fifteen was wearing today---he had that on Thirteen but had to change it. New evidence regarding who wore what when. Not easy, especially since they were so young and tastes were fluid. Eighteen smiled. At least she had one person at least to talk to, someone she could somehow trust with her thoughts. She did not know why, but his presence was calming to her. He walked ahead, following the girls. “This is going to end, soon,” Eighteen said. The observer said nothing. Eighteen patted him on the shoulder. The other two were just head, Thirteen chasing seagulls. Fifteen had taken off her sandals, her washed by the surf and the freezing water. Her thoughts as high, distant and fluffy as the clouds. Suddenly she felt very cold and distant. There was a shudder. The plane lurched towards the bottom. Oddly nobody was screaming. There was just silence, tribute to the machine’s growling and spasms. Fifteen rubbed her eyes for a moment. Unpleasant as they were they were coming more frequently. “What’s your problem?” Thirteen stood on the peak of a dune. “Go away.” “Aww,” Thirteen purred. “You’ll never get guys that way, and what if that one…” “Who?” “You know.” “I don’t. For once start making sense.” Thirteen shook her head. “Some people.” Fifteen walked on, and just as the thoughts had departed they had returned. Maybe it was the boxes that kept everyone calm. The black boxes, same basic idea - 40 -


IAN CORDINGLEY as the ones onboard documenting the crash, in the back of their heads. That was they were there for. This wouldn’t be the end, just an interruption. Unless they couldn’t afford it, in which case best of luck to you. Where the hell did that come from? “You okay?” Eighteen asked. “Yeah.” “Are you feeling..” “I’m fine,” Fifteen said, “leave me alone.” “Its okay, its…” “I’m fine!” Fifteen stomped ahead for a few paces. “I get them too,” Eighteen said. Fifteen slowed; Eighteen quickened her pace. “I don’t like them either.” “They why do we have them?” “There’s a reason. Twenty-One will explain.” At least a couple of days since they had last seen her. Granted she disappeared for long stretches, but this was something new. There was a feeling as something was different, and when they’d see her next things would be different. “She’ll make it clear.” Like Fifteen was going to believe her. She strode off, a quick angry pace. Eighteen had done what she could but the sudden rush of maturity was at war with the playfulness inside her. It was odd. She had once been like that. She was like that. Odd to examine every facet of your life at once. The sun had set by the time they reached the crescent of rocks that marked the end of the beach. A pyramid of wood and sticks was surrounded by a perimeter of rocks. Twenty-One had ripped and crumpled several sheets of newspaper. With dedicated hands she guided a quivering matched to within the pile. Slowly the wood began to glow from the inside, and the subtle sounds of crackling came from within. “Hey,” Twenty-One called. She was prodding the fire with a stick. Slowly the fire found encouragement and began to devour the wood. - 41 -


IAN CORDINGLEY Thee three girls walked over and at Twenty-One’s beckoning were seated. “Things are going to change.” “Says who?” Thirteen demanded. Twenty-One got up and began to pace the fire. “You’ve had the flashes?” No one spoke. “The rushes, the feelings of disconnection?” Still silence. “Oh come on.” Twenty-One smiled. She was wearing a sarong and bra. Each girl was a stage in the road to that level of perfection. “It happens to me to. In fact, I’d say I have it worse.” Liar, though Fifteen. Lately things hadn’t been so bad, but when they did occur…it wasn’t the suddenness of these recollections, merely the moments when it felt as if time stood still, and each moment passed like one frame before another on a roll of film. Like she had been falling, and for a brief moment time had been suspended just so she could open an eye and see how far she had come and now, inviting, was the ground at arm’s length. The observer stood behind them, his large shadow stretching over the fire. “We’re not going to worry about that any longer. After tonight, we’re going to be in one piece?” “Says who?” Thirteen asked. Twenty-One beckoned and the observer nodded. Fifteen snorted. “Its true,” she said. Twenty-One sat by the fire. “We’re…unique, aren’t we?” The observer, as always, said nothing. Watching the girls through his eyes, grey and cool and unsympathetic. “We’re going to meet all the people we care about,” Eighteen said. “Who?” Fifteen asked. “You know,” Thirteen taunted. “And the people who care about us.” “Like him?” - 42 -


IAN CORDINGLEY “Exactly.” Eighteen blushed. “I don’t know how I’m going to handle it.” “You better get ready. There’s going to be more than one,” Twenty-One said with a twinkle in her eye. Such a popular girl. Thirteen and Fifteen sat confused, frustrated at the private wisdom shared between the two older girls. Twenty-One picked at the fire. A small shower of sparks flew into the black sky. “I think we’re ready.” Twenty-One and Eighteen joined hands. Thirteen’s tiny, soft hand found its way into Fifteen’s, but she stood and stared at the two older girls. “Its going to be all right.” It didn’t feel like that. Having them tell her that, slowly and calmly, made seem as if it was not. Someone actually turned their head and said, “We’re going to be all right.” He was so calm. Was he stupid or something. Of course they weren’t all right, they were going to die! He smiled at her. “We’ll all be together in the end.” It took her a moment to realize what he mean: he didn’t have a unit. How couldn’t he? Her family could afford it easily, and there was the argument that this wasn’t just a commodity, it was something that should be available to everyone. Not everyone agreed. Unless they were on this flight. He would be lost forever, and he appeared so calm. She dug her fingers into the arm rests, digging in if the harm she did to the plastic would spare her. The last moment before impact seemed to hang in the air, as if time was suspended and gravity absent. Just a slow, low growl as they went in and the world disappeared. Not dramatically: just faded without much notice or fanfare and replaced by an expanse of black. “I promise they’ll go away.” Fifteen thought a moment before nodding. “Okay,” Twenty-One said. Fifteen pressed her fingers into the palms of Thirteen and Eighteen. Her eyes met the older girls, and they smiled. It still felt unusual, awkward. Part of her felt this was a good thing, wrestling with the cold deep part of her body. - 43 -


IAN CORDINGLEY “Okay,” Twenty-One said. “We’re ready.” The observer stood and he watched. Watched the girls he had come to know well, stitching them together from fragments and tatters. Trying to fulfill a grieving father’s request: Just give me my daughter back. They sat around the fire until there were embers and darkness. Copyright ©Ian Cordingley 2009

SIGNED ARTWORK PRINTS Now Available from Screaming Dreams

A selection of fantasy, sci-fi and horror artwork prints can now be purchased from the new Artwork section on the SD website. More images will be added soon, so please keep watching! A4 size prints (210 x 297 mm) : £8 each A3 size prints (297 x 420 mm) : £16 each FREE POSTAGE. Prices are for prints ONLY (no frames or mounts included)

www.screamingdreams.com - 44 -


MATT FINUCANE

I

’m a perfectly reasonable man. I just get scared sometimes. In this world, who wouldn’t? Reasonable enough, surely. So I like to take care. I like to be safe; really, properly safe, safe for certain. What I don’t like would fill a phonebook – again, not surprising given the way things are – and I especially don’t like nasty surprises. I especially don’t like being almost run over on my way home from a bit of quick late-night food shopping. I think you’ll agree, it’s hardly one of life’s pleasures; so I was a little annoyed. Granted, it was a narrow street and not very well-lit, with a sharp corner, and I should’ve been paying more attention crossing the road. But I was nearly home, just juggling the shopping-bag and my key (I like to have it ready to get indoors quickly, added to which if someone tries to mug you, you can punch them in the eye with it)… And then this car slides by, I think it’s going to pass the turning so I don’t pick up my pace for the next kerb or anything, and without indicating, it shoots into the street and smashes the shopping bag out of my hand. There was a nasty bruise on my left leg too, but that didn’t come up till the next day – one of those really deep ones that hangs around for ages and goes through about twelve different colours. Anyway, I fell on my backside on the pavement and the car stopped. The window rolled down and a young woman poked her head out. I thought she was going to ask if I was alright, as you’d expect, but no: she shouted, ‘Apology accepted! Fucking idiot!’ So I shouted back, ‘Try indicating for once! You see those pretty little orange lights on the side of the car? They’re there to be used. Give it a go, you might like it. Bitch.’ She threw open the door and stepped out. ‘What did you call me?’ She was expensively dressed and well-groomed, sleek is the word I think, with one of those petulantly attractive (but not beautiful) faces that lost the habit of looking concerned about other people a long while ago. Obviously used to always being in the right; flashy job, always deferred to, never contradicted. Too much money, too young – probably out of her tree on booze and cocaine too. - 45 -


MATT FINUCANE I absolutely hate people like that. Don’t you? Understandable, really. So very calmly and precisely, I said, ‘I called you a bitch. Which was fairly mild, taking into account your lack of consideration nearly killed me. What you actually are is a repulsive, stupid, self-centred, worthless, deluded cunt.’ This woman actually advanced on me. Can you believe it? Almost runs me over and now she’s acting the injured party. It was too dark to see her expression, but from her stance I could tell she wasn’t coming over to see if I was okay. Maybe it was reaction, her shock and fear coming out as anger, or maybe she genuinely was an unpleasant person. It didn’t matter; it scared me. As I mentioned, I react to being scared very, very badly. I stood up. I was still holding my key, and now I slipped it between my third and fourth fingers and rested the tag-end against my palm, taking care not to let her see. She was too busy glaring at me anyway. Now, anybody would’ve taken exception to this, in these circumstances, wouldn’t they? And remember, I was full of nasty adrenaline. So when she got close enough, her mouth contorting to start yelling again, I held the key at hip height and punched it into the soft part of her inner thigh as hard as I could. When she fell down, I kicked her in the stomach, then the head. She vomited and I felt bad, but I didn’t want her attacking me. I went through her handbag – one of those flimsy, expensive articles – looking for a rape alarm or Mace or God knows what; I wouldn’t have been surprised to find a handgun. She moved a bit, so I kicked her again. Women are much more dangerous than men: it’s a well-documented fact. Why do you think they tell the army and the SAS to always shoot the female terrorists first? Nothing in the bag, so I tossed it into the gutter and stepped over her to look at her car. It was a lovely car; I’ve always wanted a nice car, and this one – barring the minor dent in the bodywork where she’d slammed into me – was a beauty. I got in. I thought: Now look, this woman nearly squashed you into the road in this nice, nice car – the kind you’ve always wanted. There’s a perverse sort of irony in that, isn’t there? - 46 -


MATT FINUCANE So what could be more reasonable – more equitable – than taking it for a quick spin? In fact, why not just keep it? Quid pro quo. Looking in the rearview mirror I saw her stirring again, trying to get up. Either she was remarkably strong – and most of these young female execs go to the gym an awful lot – or whatever illegal drugs were in her system had dulled some of the pain. Either that, or I hadn’t hit her hard enough the first time. This made me think further: You can’t really in all fairness just take this car, can you? She’ll complain. It’ll probably make her feel inadequate, and she’ll have to use public transport like the rest of us to get to work. And inevitably, she’ll involve the police. She doesn’t know I actually live in this street and those identikit things are so unreliable. (Identifit? E-fit? What are they called now?) But nevertheless. I do not like being made nervous. I do not like it at all, the disrupted routine, the indigestion, the bad dreams, the weeks of anxiety afterward much like my bruise; no. I watched her in the mirror a little longer and made sure the street was still empty. Then I got out, went over to her, and broke her neck. I learned this from a book on self-defence, a single hard chop to the windpipe, severs the spinal cord too if you do it right. Evidently I did; and they say practical experience is no substitute for book-learning (although strictly speaking, I’d now had both). I put her body on the floor in the back, then had an agreeably relaxing drive into the country. Copyright © Matt Funicane 2009

Matt Finucane lives in London. When not writing stories he likes to tour the city's club circuit bothering people with his guitar. He has a horror/fantasy novel called Leland Poet due for publication in Summer by Legend Press, and several short stories scheduled to come out in 2009. More info here. - 47 -


FANTASYCON 2009

Register for this event now! : www.fantasycon.org.uk - 48 -


JOHN T. CARNEY

C

aptain Adams raised his one brawny arm, glancing across the sinuous flesh in distraction as a warm fire blazed in the fireplace. It was a hot summer night, and beads of sweat dripped lazily down his back and face. His black growth of beard was thick from being at sea several months and his graying locks were wet with perspiration. He wore a blue, faded uniform that he’d purchased during the second world war with buttons lined down the center of it, and a pair of worn pants that had come with it, also showing signs of age. His face was craggy and lined with signs of care and worry. ‘It was the sea salt that did it,’ he often told people who remarked on it, ‘only the sea salt. It could happen to you, too, if you were at sea long enough,’ he would tell them. But they would just laugh. They would only laugh. During the war years he’d won respect for his service, serving in the marines for about three years close to the end of the war. He’d been decorated for his heroic fighting in Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The fighting was brutal, but it had been worth the effort. He had even served in Japan after the war was over, seeing to the last details of the surrender. Adams tensed his arm muscle when he thought of it as if by doing so that he could bring back the other. Nowadays, no one remembered his service. No one cared. The years had erased everything. Even people’s memories. Adams didn’t care anymore either, he thought. The main thing on his mind these days was his other arm. He’d lost it during crab fishing in the Bering Sea when a loose cable wrapped around his elbow and squeezed his arm right off at the joint. Ever since then it had preoccupied him more and more, blocking out even his memories of the war and all that had been important to him before. All he ever thought about now was his arm, his severed arm. “By God, if I only had it back!” he said to himself whimsically as he pondered his remaining arm. Drops of sweat dripped from the tensed muscle as if it were a slab of raw meat, dripping blood from a meat hook. At least, that’s how the stump of his severed arm looked after the accident. Suddenly, he slammed his arm upon the table in frustration and looked about him as if to find something, anything, to keep his mind off it. His eyes glanced across the bookshelf directly opposite him and alighted upon a thick, black tome that he hadn’t recalled noticing before. For in his many years of book collecting, he’d bought and sold many books without sometimes even batting an eye at the title nor so much as even leafing through them at all. This one, however, caught his - 49 -


JOHN T. CARNEY eye. He glanced at the author’s name. ‘Von Junzt,’ it read. Ignoring the title, he leafed through the tome in curiosity, noting that it was a book of prayers and spells to foreign gods, as well as a manual of curses and spells relative to the priests or priestesses performing the rites. With a sudden rush of foolish excitement, he slammed the book on the table and bellowed aloud, “Ye Gods, herein named, I invoke thee. If you exist, hear me. Let me awaken in the morn with my arm renewed as it was before the sea took it away.” A grinding silence followed during which the seconds ticked ominously by. Adams waited nervously. Perhaps he’d gone too far. But after several minutes of silence, he snorted angrily, and poured a glass of rum. If a man didn’t have something he wanted he could always have a drink instead, he thought. He glanced about the living room of his single story home, savoring the rum as he did so. It had come as an inheritance from his grandfather who also had sailed the seas for a good many years and had called this place home when he was not at sea. It consisted of a simple kitchen near the front door which opened up into the living room with a single bedroom in the back. Nothing elaborate. Only the things a simple sailor would need. Nothing more. Adams required little more than that. Adams thought again of the invocation he’d made and swore. The loss of his arm had been a great sacrifice. The sea had already taken so much. Why did it have to take his arm? He sighed in frustration and took another sip of his drink. He stared absently at a large aquarium full of sea water that he’d prepared, thinking one day that he might have a pet squid to while away his time with. But it seemed like his plans just weren’t working the way he’d wanted them to over the years. Adams snorted again and fingered his shot glass as he considered this. “At least I’ve got me rum!” he muttered to himself as if that would resolve the whole matter and drank down the shot. In a gesture of rage he hurled the book into the fire Then, poured another shot and drank that one down too. After a half hour of hard drinking, he eventually fell asleep. And as he slept, dreams rattled his sleep in rapid, startling flashes. In one, vague shapes strode gigantically through the deep while finned monstrosities rushed past into the gloom of the fathomless void. In another, a single eye glared distantly from the depths of a black abyss as something writhed bestially before it. A slow current brought him closer to the eye by degrees. The writhing thing caressed him obscenely, wrapping its tendrils - 50 -


JOHN T. CARNEY about him as if he were some kind of toy. Then, with a hideous rush of water, a vise-like grip fastened about his neck, as the eye closed in and sharp fangs rent his flesh like those of a shark. The thing had a face like that of a man, ancient, with a beard, holding the accursed Black Book in his hand, the very tome he’d thrown into the fire. And with a sudden, furious gesture, the old man hurled the book into his face as if in return for Adams’ own gesture of rage. Adams awoke, shrieking, but only to witness the beginning of another nightmare. For where his arms had been, two writhing tentacles had appeared and were fastened tightly about his neck. In a panic, he crashed through the window of his front kitchen and flung himself into the nearby sea just outside his seaside home. He was never heard from again. At least not immediately. In the morning when some of his mates came to call from the old days, a strange, black-clothed seaman answered the door and responded to their inquiries by telling them that Captain Adams had “given himself to the sea,” and would not elaborate. When they left, puzzled, he reached into the fireplace and sifted through the cold ashes of the fire grate. He was a grey-haired German man with thinning grey hair and a small grey beard, neatly trimmed. He wore a pair of spectacles that glittered in the lamplight. His face was sharply angled as if from very old age and his uniform was a striking dark black color, though showing signs of wear. He looked like a man who’d just stepped out of the 19th century and into the present. Anyone who would have seen him at that moment would have sworn that he was perhaps older than his looks implied. As he sifted through the ashes, his patience began to wear thin as if he had lost something very important, something, perhaps, that had brought him there to begin with “Why did you have to burn my book?” He asked the silence, “It was my only remaining copy. You asked for your arm, and I gave you two. And this is how you reward me?” He snapped his fingers and another appeared. “There, you see,” he said, whimsically, “Now I have a second copy. Dagon has been most merciful. As I’m sure you must agree.” With that he proceeded to finish Adams’ bottle of rum. The stranger raised his glass. “A toast to Captain Adams,” he said, “Who now has both his arms in Dagon’s kingdom and who now embraces the sea he so loved. May he rejoice forever.” As he finished off the shot, he poured another and continued drinking until the bottle was completely empty and he was fast asleep. As he - 51 -


JOHN T. CARNEY slept, dreams rattled his sleep. In one, vague shapes strode gigantically through the deep while finned monstrosities rushed past into the fathomless void. In another, a single eye glared . . . The stranger awoke with a sudden shock. Something or someone was pounding on the wood of the seaside structure and it sounded urgent. His head pounded from the rum he’d drunk earlier in the day and he found that he wasn’t too steady upon his feet upon rising from the couch on which he’d passed out earlier. The pounding on the wood sounded once again, and it was hard to distinguish it from the pounding going on in his skull as if someone had added a sledgehammer to his heart beat. The old seafarer staggered forward towards the door, wondering vaguely if more of Captain Adam’s visitors had dropped by again with more questions. He sighed with exasperation and flung open the door only to find that no one was there. Yet the pounding continued despite this and the old seaman realized that it was coming from not outside the door but below the walkway. The old man looked under the walkway before the front door and discovered to his shock that Captain Adams had returned. Soaking wet, the captain leaned against a piling, gasping for breath, and not sparing the air for cursing either. However, instead of arms he now had tentacles to replace them. And without sparing a moment, he proceeded to pull himself up the piling with them, pulling his full weight up the wood by degrees until he had reached the walkway where he continued with the full weight of his curses upon the stranger whom had invaded his home. “I know who you are now, you old son-of-a-bitch!” he swore. “You’re the one who wrote that cursed book that brought this upon me! Otherwise, I wouldn’t have these!” he cursed, shoving his writhing tentacles in front of him with a thrusting motion. “I damn near drowned out there and almost never made it back. Aye, I know you! You’re Von Junzt, the author of the Black Book, that accursed tome that brings sorrow upon those who happen to open its pages. Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t strangle you right now; why I shouldn’t rob you of the existence you so delightfully stole from me not so long ago? Give me one good reason!” “One good reason?” Von Junzt returned, good-naturedly. “Why because I’m already dead, my good man. I’m dead, yet, I’m alive as well. Don’t you see? We both now have eternal life. You have been transformed! You are now a child of - 52 -


JOHN T. CARNEY the sea; an offspring of great Dagon whom we now both serve! I have given you a great gift! Eternal life with the sea we both love and with the great God that dwells within! You should be grateful not angry.” “Grateful! Grateful for the devil? You son-of-a-bitch! Let me strangle you right now! I’m going to kill you first before I turn into a squid!” Yet as Captain Adams approached, Von Junzt began to change. Suddenly, he had tentacles. His head became a dripping, one-eyed mass of flesh, and he was now twice his size with twice the strength of the poor Captain Adams. As for Captain Adams he now became a third of the size he once was with a third of his once-powerful strength. And before the two could make any attempt at combat, visitors could be seen to be approaching from a distance away. With a cryptic gesture Von Junzt made Adams even smaller until the man was barely the size of a man’s hand. Von Junzt grabbed the squirming Adams and pulled him inside. With careless haste he thrust the helpless Adams into a large glass container, filled with seawater, about the size of a large aquarium, the very same aquarium Adams had created for his own pleasure. It had now become Adams’ undoing. A sudden pounding sounded on the door and Von Junzt quickly assumed his former shape. With a quick resumption of his composure he calmly opened the door. “Yes! I see you’re here about the missing Captain Adams, are you not?” “You’re damn right we are!” one of the sailors answered in a brusk tone. “Your explanations don’t ring right with us and we want to have a look around.” “There’s no need, gentlemen. Captain Adams has returned and has now assumed full ownership of his home once again. Would you like to see him?” “If we may,” the first sailor answered with the others nodding in agreement. “Then, come with me,” the congenial Von Junzt continued, “And I will show you the man forthwith.” The four men approached the large glass container at which point Von Junzt thrust his forefinger out towards the object inside the glass. “There he is,” he nonchalantly remarked with the coolness of a fox. The men stared, wide-eyed, like idiots at the object in the glass as the helpless Captain Adams stared back, unable to speak nor gesture to his friends. “He may be a trifle different from how you knew him before, but he now makes a jolly wonderful pet squid! I assure you everything is quite under - 53 -


JOHN T. CARNEY control and the man has full retention of his faculties.” Understandably, the men were outraged. The police were called. The newspapermen arrived. The community was in a great stir over the affair. Yet nothing could be done. Legally, Captain Adams was still alive and still the owner of the place in which he had resided and no crime had, technically, been committed. He was now, officially, known as a pet squid. That is, until such time as Dagon’s pleasure was served. Copyright © John T. Carney 2009

John T. Carney was born in San Francisco, CA on December 13, 1960 and has lived most of his life since then in the Bay Area. He graduated from Moreau High School in Hayward, CA in 1979 and from The University of Pacific in Stockton, CA in 1985. He has had some several poems published by the International Library of Poetry in their various poetry anthologies and has also been published in small college literary magazines. His horror fiction and poetry found first publication in NVF magazine early this year. One of his stories, The Obsidian Stone, will appear in NVF magazine’s forthcoming first anthology that may come out later this year. Another of his stories, called The Snake People, was published in NVF’s Halloween anthology. His favorite horror short story is The Red Lodge by H. Russell Wakefield. His favorite horror movie is The Shuttered Room, based on a horror story by H. P. Lovecraft. Estronomicon has previously published two reprint stories of his called The Lake People and The Curse of The Leper. He is also due to appear in NVF’s upcoming print magazines with a story called The Cat People and a poem called The Werewolf Sonnets. He now has a book out, available on amazon.com, called The Vampire Sonnets. It is a short novel combined with a brief book of sonnets on vampirism. NVF magazine is shortly to publish his third story in the serial of the Cat People called The Revenge of The Cat People.

- 54 -


MICHEL BOHBOT

N

ot only has Michel been kind enough to provide the cover for this eZine issue, he also explains how he created the original artwork... Changer of Days

Hi everyone, I though I'd share some stories and techniques on how the cover image came to pass. I should start by telling everyone that I used to work only in oil and acrylics and eventually learnt to use the computer. One day I got a call from from my representative to call an art director at Avon. He wanted to know if I could do the cover of the second in a series of books by Alma Alexander called Changer of Days. J. P. Targete had done a wonderful painting for the first one but was not available for this cover. He had set the tone and certain costume elements I had to follow. The AD wanted the piece done all traditionally but I convinced him that I could mix and match media and still get the look he was after. This is one of those covers were there is no perfect moment in the book that captures all the elements you need. So I had to come up with more of an iconic image of a young woman coming into her magical powers as she returns to her home (the first book was a tale of her travels far and wide and the discovery of her talent) and must face her brother who now rules. After trying a few ideas where she was more goddess like, I sent this one (see above right image) of a real girl standing in front of her ancestral home. The AD liked that one and off I went to work. - 55 -


MICHEL BOHBOT At that time the publisher would pay for a model shoot in New York, but since I now live near San Francisco this would be long distance job. I was given a website to choose a model from and did so. I then sent them the comp for rough costume and position. As you can see the model shot had not been updated in awhile and I had to try and paint backwards in time.

To make her appear younger I made he face less long, her eyes bigger and rounded forms in general as you can see in the above image. - 56 -


MICHEL BOHBOT Now for some behind the scenes on what I used and where!

I used acrylics for the background hills and the stone she stands on. I started with a reddish background and piled on layers (real ones not Photoshop ones) of acrylics using bristle brushes and sponges to apply texture in an almost impressionistic way (see sample swatch in the above image).

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MICHEL BOHBOT The castle and sky were done using Corel Painter as was the main figure. For the magic I played around in Adobe Photoshop first and added a touch of Zbrush. When I had something I liked reasonably well I opened that in Painter and repainted the whole thing to keep that brushy look throughout.

Then, as in almost all my projects I bring in all the disparate images into Photoshop and start playing with the layers. In this case there was a layer for: the hills, the castle, the main figure, the magic spell, the wings, and the sky. With the layers in place I started to harmonize the colors, use the clone tool to clean up inconsistencies, and try out various opacities and blending modes. Most of my files will end up with over 50 layers of little bits and adjustments. The only real but significant difference between a traditional painting and this one is that I can take those bits of touching up change them artistically or even play with their opacity because they're on layers (Photoshop ones not real ones this time).

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MICHEL BOHBOT At the end of it all the AD wanted most of the colors to be a bit more saturated and I did so and then sent off the CD.

About a year ago www.podgallery.com wanted to sell some prints of my work and so I had a chance to look at of some of my art, and as is usually the case I'm never completely happy with the end result and will want to go in and do more. In this case I decided I wanted to mute some of the colors and shift them towards yellow brown, and finally add more focus on the main figure by darkening the background. You decide which version you lean towards or should I go further and make all luminous green! :) All Images Copyright ŠMichel Bohbot 2004

Browse my homepage for more artwork at : www.mbohbot.com For prints of my work on paper or canvas, visit : www.podgallery.com - 59 -


GLENN STUART

G

randma always said Sean had the gift of ‘second-sight’. Why she would say that, nobody really knew, least of all Sean. When he saw Grandpa – or ‘Pop’ as he was known to the family – standing at the bottom of the stairs with his trademark trilby hat perched on his head, it should have been enough to send him into a state of stupefaction, but it didn’t. He felt calm, at peace almost. And Pop didn’t seem to mind, despite the fact that he’d been dead for fifteen years. From that moment, Sean regularly saw those who had passed over. Most were friendly, like Pop; one or two were not. It was when he met Jane that things began to change, and not always in the most obvious of ways! Yes, Sean was madly in love, and their relationship developed along fairly conventional lines. He met her parents, had many a Sunday lunch at their home. They were simple, hard-working people with no pretensions. Perhaps they thought that Sean was a little ‘above himself’; Jane thought he was little ‘intense’, but apart from that everything was fine. Until the weekend he stayed over. They’d been out, enjoying a rather fine meal at one of the more expensive restaurants in the city, and now that they had returned to the house, Jane’s parents were happy for him to put his head down on the couch. Sometime later, when the television had begun to blur into the world of the insomniac and the brain-dead, Jane and he sat next to one another on that same couch and talked and talked and talked. Like new lovers the world over, they were simply happy to be in each other’s company, and their talk ranged from what they had done at school, to their dreams and aspirations for the future. As they talked, neither noticed how quiet the house had become. Jane’s parents, and her brothers, were fast asleep. The lights had been switched off, and Jane got up to pull back the curtains to reveal a full moon, as bright as a beacon. The room was bathed in a silver glow and Sean glanced at his watch. It was almost three. As the big hand turned to the hour, they both flinched when they heard the electric kettle being turned on in the kitchen. They froze, not daring to breathe. Anyone erupting into the room at that moment would have instantly put two and two together, catching the young lovers in what was surely a compromising position. The fact that they had only been talking would not have been considered seriously for a single second, certainly not by one of Jane’s mischievous brothers. Sean held up his hand and got to his feet, crossing the room as quietly as - 60 -


GLENN STUART he could. He could see through the crack in the door that the hall light was on. Breathing in deeply, he slowly eased open the door. As soon as he did the light went off. “Who the hell is it,” hissed Jane. Sean merely shrugged, and taking another, deeper breath, he pulled the door fully open. He half expected to see Jane’s father standing there, an accusing look on his face, but there was no one. Except that the kitchen light was on. It must have been one of her brothers, playing some stupid trick. Sean strode into the kitchen and immediately saw that there was no one in there either. But the kettle was boiling. The lid was off, so it could have boiled dry if no one had come in and switched it off. Definitely a stupid trick. Except that the kettle was boiling, and the plug was not in the socket. For a moment he stood, rooted to the spot, a chill running through him of such intensity that he’d never experienced anything like it before. He became aware of a growing a malevolence, one that was becoming stronger. Something wasn’t right here. “What is it?” He started at the sound of her voice, and span round, his eyes wide. He tried to smile, but merely achieved a sort of grimace. Shaking his head, he moved the kettle, just to check, and he noticed that his hand was shaking. “It’s those little toads,” she snapped, “I'll kill them in the morning!” They sat for a little while longer, with the door open this time and the light on. That way no one could mistake what they were doing. Sean hadn’t said very much, but at the first sound of something being dragged across the floor of the room immediately above them, he flinched and jumped to his feet. “Why are they doing this?” “They’re kids,” she said. “They’re having a lovely time, at our expense! That’s their bedroom above us! Listen to them, they’ll wake up the whole house!” She was already rushing out of the room as Sean looked up at the ceiling. True, by now the noise was loud enough to wake anyone up, including the next-door neighbours. The beds were being dragged and pushed across the floor, occasionally being lifted and smashed back down again with considerably force, hard enough to make the ceiling light swing violently. He started to move away and almost collided with Jane as she returned, breathless. - 61 -


GLENN STUART “There’s nothing, Sean. They’re asleep and the beds…the beds haven’t been moved.” As he crossed the river on the ferry, he leaned over the rail, staring vacantly into the grey, churning water. None of it made any sense. He had always been so in tune, so certain. Almost always, when the voices or the messages came to him, he felt in control, assured, confident that there would be no harm to him or anyone around him. This, however, was different. He was unsettled and, if he dared to admit it to himself, a little afraid. Jane had been good to him that morning, never mentioning any of it. Her brothers seemed too natural, too relaxed for any suspicion to fall upon them. The day was just a normal day and now, as the ferry pulled up against the harbour wall and the few lonely passengers began to disembark, he walked with head down, indecisive and disturbed. He spoke with his Gran. She listened patiently, but could offer no words of comfort. It was all beyond her. The only experience she’d ever had was when Pop had passed away. She’d seen him, walking out of the front door, without a backward glance. Almost immediately, the telephone call had come to tell her he had been struck down with a massive, fatal heart attack. When Sean had begun to see things, she’d accepted them readily and without argument, probably because of her experience. Sean had a gift and soon the news spread and Gran was organising séance evenings. He’d gone along with it, but he was never truly happy with any of it. When the local newspaper had tried to prove he was a charlatan, and failed, he’d had enough. There were no more evenings full of desperate people seeking a sign and gradually, over the months and years, Sean had left that part of him far behind. Now this. It was all coming back. “But what could it be, Gran? A sign, a warning? What?” “All you can do,” she said sagely, “is to see what happens next. When you go round next time, just keep an open mind. Try and…connect with whatever, or whoever it is.” He put his face in his hands. His Gran’s words were exactly the words he didn’t want to hear. The day finally arrived. The week had been long and both were desperate to be with one another again. Jane was insistent that he come over and stay and - 62 -


GLENN STUART when they came through the front door, her mum and dad were just as friendly as they ever were. Before long, Jane’s brothers joined in. They all sat round and drank tea, then the cards were produced and sometime close to midnight, a few glasses of whisky. It was a good night and Sean felt himself drawn to these people, their openness, their acceptance. There could be no doubt that nobody had anything to do with any hi-jinks. When the ‘goodnights’ were exchanged and Sean and Jane found themselves alone, it was only natural that they should kiss. Almost at once, the first crash from upstairs brought them both back into the real world with a start. Jane slammed her fist down on the arm of the sofa. Seething with anger, she pounded up to the bedrooms, ready to confront her brothers. Sean came to the foot of the stairs and peered upwards. It was dark up there and as he looked an icy blast struck him like a blow across the face. He recoiled in horror as the shadow floated across the top stair. It was no more than a smudge of inky blackness against the gloom, but it held within its indistinct form something that was wholly malevolent. He cried out Jane’s name, taking the stairs two at a time, bounding across the landing to almost collide with her as she stood, bolted to the spot and rigid with fear. Without words, he put his arm around her and lead her gently back down the stairs to the living room. She couldn’t find her voice to air the terror she felt. Whatever it was that he had seen, it had touched her, brushing past her in a blur. But she’d felt it, and that was enough. This was no prank, it was real. Another week passed, a week of him working in that dismal newsagent, and Jane going to college. He’d ‘phone her every night and she slowly began to return to her usual, cheery self. No, there had been no other ‘incidents’, no noises, no shadows on the landing. One tiny thing, probably unrelated. The cat had disappeared. She was sad about that, thinking it had been knocked over. But nothing else and as they relaxed, they planned their weekend. An open-air rock concert. It was something they’d talked about ever since it was first advertised on the internet. It was only days away. They tried to be quiet when they got back in. There were no lights on, but they weren’t expecting there to be. It was almost two in the morning. On the kitchen table, carefully arranged and accompanied by a little note, was a plate of - 63 -


GLENN STUART sandwiches. They soon demolished her mother’s offering and then giggled as they reminisced about the day. A wonderful day. Together. The scream was like the terrified cry of some wild animal, ensnared, or caught in the jaws of a predator. It was unearthly, high-pitched, and utterly horrible. Jane’s hands flew to her mouth, the blood draining from her face, skin ashen. Sean, reacting almost instantly, shoving back his chair and standing there, quivering, his face turned upwards. He tried to bring to mind his Gran’s words. To open himself up, remain calm, but it was useless. And even if he had succeeded, he doubted he would ever wish to connect with whatever it was that had made such a sound. For moments that seemed to stretch out for an age, they both stood in silence. Surely her parents would have been wakened by the scream? Certainly her brothers. But there was nothing. No more noise. Only a ghastly silence in a sleeping house. Instinctively he took her hand and squeezed it. “Let’s just go to bed,” he said quietly. She nodded sheepishly and together they climbed the stairs. Jane’s mum had made him up a bed in the boys’ bedroom. They hugged each other on the threshold, then she was gone, slipping into her own bedroom which was adjacent to the boys’. Sean looked around him in the darkness. The soft, steady breathing of those in deep, impenetrable sleep was the only sound. With infinite care, he crossed to his own bed, pulled off his clothes and slipped between the covers. He could hear Jane as she settled into her bed. Covers were pulled over her, then she turned to make herself comfortable. He lay on his back, staring at the ceiling, imagining her as she curled herself up, all snug and warm. But she wasn’t settling. She was tossing and turning, quite violently by now, pulling the cover over her twice, three times, its edge swishing loudly against the wall. Very loudly. And repeatedly. Sean sat up and peered through the gloom of the bedroom towards the wall that separated Jane’s bedroom from her brothers’. The cover was being moved rapidly across the wall, as it were some gigantic dusting cloth. Backwards and forwards, ever more loudly. And as he sat there, frozen with the horror of it, the movement of that quilt changed. It gradually began to move, across the wall towards where the window was. It actually moved like some living entity, and with each swipe of the material against the plastered brick, the sound of - 64 -


GLENN STUART that action grew until it was so loud that it was filling the room. On it came, past the window, travelling closer and closer towards Sean whose throat was dry, whose heartbeat pounded, whose brow was sodden with sweat . Ever closer, ever louder, unstoppable, relentless until at last it was a mere arm’s length away from where he sat. The bedroom light came on and in that instant, the sound ceased. Jane was crossing the room to him, coming up to his side, putting her arms around him to hold him as he sobbed into her shoulder. “It’s all right,” she was saying and she held him close until the first strands of dawn appeared in the sky. “You were crying out, Sean,” she explained later that morning. “Why no one heard, I don’t know. But when I saw you…Sean, your face!” He shook his head. “What the hell is it,” he said in a little boy’s voice. He felt like a little boy that day. Afraid, lost, desperate for guidance, for answers. Nevertheless, he knew what had to be done. The only way to discover the truth. Looking deep into Jane’s eyes, he told her. About, what his Gran called, his ‘gift’. And as he spoke, she listened, aghast, for she believed him, believed him with all her heart. When at last he stopped speaking, she took his face in her hands, “Are you sure you want to do this?” He shook his head, “No. But there is no other way.” So that morning they planned for the séance that would take place later when the house was again sleeping. Without warning, he was gripped by something so strong, so powerful, that he felt for a moment that he would be crushed. The tightness in his chest was like nothing he had ever experienced before. Then he was falling, down and down into a swirling greyness and all consciousness was gone. Across from the table, Jane held onto his hands, just as he had instructed her. It was night, they were alone and the séance had begun. When he began to go into some sort of fit, Jane held onto him harder still. He became like a rag doll, all control leaving his body, and his torso flopped forward, his heads smacking the table top with a sickening thud. Immediately he was pulled backwards again as if by some invisible hand and he sat suddenly still. She waited, hardly daring to breathe, but when his words came they brought with them a new and enlightening tale of past lives, lives that had been forgotten, - 65 -


GLENN STUART ignored and desecrated. It was not Sean’s voice she heard, it was the voice of one who had lived and had been laid to rest in the hospital cemetery, having died whilst confined in the featureless and cruel wards of the psychiatric wing of that ancient place. A place that was now gone, bull-dozed over to make room for the housing estate that had been built over the graves of the dead inmates. No one came to mourn them, no one cared. Only now, thanks to Sean’s ‘gift’, had their restless spirits been given the opportunity to be heard. Some days later, they met at the site they had chosen. The arrangements had been difficult, but not impossible, not when the money had been handed over. And now, as Sean placed the tiny plague of remembrance in the prepared place on the wall of the first main street of the estate, he knew that there would no longer be any more noises, or screams, or the sound of a gurney being dragged across the floor of the morgue and the bodies being unceremoniously slammed into the great, hideous compartments that held them until they were released for burial. There would no more of this, for now those long passed people would be remembered, if only fleetingly, by anyone who chose to read the words on the plague: ‘To those many, nameless mental patients who died within the confines of the Lexington Hospital which once stood on this sight, we pay our respects and give our thoughts. Rest in peace.’ An hour or so later, they returned to Jane’s house in silence, her key turning in the lock, the door being pushed open. And the cat brushing past them, eager and hopeful to find a full bowl of food waiting for her, told them both that everything was going to be all right. Copyright © Glenn Stuart 2009

You can find Glenn online at : www.horroronthecosta.com

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TITLES WORTH CHECKING OUT!

The Well of Despair The first novel by Glenn Stuart It tells the story of Robbie, a young teenager who, together with his family, has moved to an idyllic rural area, due to his stepfather’s latest career move. Almost from the outset, however, things do not run smoothly. Everyone is feeling very unsettled, unsure that the move was really the best thing. And there are more sinister reasons why none of this was perhaps for the best. From the upstairs window, Robbie can look out across the rolling landscape towards a tiny, overgrown path and it is on this path that he witnesses the passing of strange, ethereal figures. Figures that haunt his sleeping and waking hours. His mother hears voices, hymns and the incessant peeling of bells. Robbie, along with some friends, investigates and discovers that the path leads to an ancient natural spring, long since forgotten. Once, many hundreds of years ago, a strange, wandering monk settled and preached the gospel. He found the spring, a well, and blessed it, making it his refuge. Later, an abbey was founded on the site, but then a terrible event, an act of desecration and betrayal, changed the whole history of the place, and it is now shrouded in mystery and legend. Further discoveries are thwarted by a local bully. But this is no ordinary bully. He is possessed, possessed by an evil presence that seems determined to lure Robbie, and everyone else who has become involved, into something heinous. The book is now available through the author’s own web site www.horroronthecosta.com

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TITLES WORTH CHECKING OUT!

Feminine Wiles 16 Tales of Wicked Women New release from dark fiction author John Grover Think that women are the softer sex? Well think again! These women will prove you wrong-dead wrong. Gathered in this volume are sixteen tales of ladies of darkness, women of horror, sisters of the night, witness as they turn the tables on their male counterparts with cunning, intelligence and beauty to blaze a hellish path through horror fiction. From the fair maiden to the withered crone women have always had a place in supernatural and horror literature but never have they taken the spotlight as they do now. Read on as they prove that men aren't the only villains to be reckoned with and that they can be every bit as lethal. Every story in this collection features a female villain in all her dark glory from the femme fatale to the wicked witch. You will find no damsels in distress or dim-witted victims in this book-only seductive, cunning, savage and strong villains to make your nightmares sweeter than you could ever imagine. Will you go willingly when they summon, will you succumb when they seduce you, will you fall prey to their Feminine Wiles? Visit John’s website for purchase information : www.shadowtales.com Also available from : www.amazon.com

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TITLES WORTH CHECKING OUT!

Around a Dark Corner The latest collection from Jeani Rector Imagine a world where there is only the daylight to banish the darkness. And when the sun goes down, what lurks in the shadows around a dark corner? This book of nine scary tales and one novella is storytelling at its finest, with the dark magic of Cabala and Palo Mayombe, haunted cemeteries, bubonic plague, maggots, madness, and the mysteries of what happens to bodies after death. Timeless in their style, these stories are relentless in their approach to basic fears. From dark fantasy and pure suspense to classic horror tales, this collection of nine short stories and one novella surprises its readers with Hitchcock-style, twisted endings. Available in the UK from www.turnermaxwellbooks.com Jeani has had her stories featured in magazines such as Horrormasters, Morbid Outlook, Lost Souls, Black Petals, Hackwriters, Bewildering Stories, Aphelion, Ultraverse, Story Mania, New Voices in Horror, All Destiny, Macabre Cadaver, Horror In Words, and many, many others. To find out more about this book please visit the official website www.aroundadarkcorner.com

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TITLES WORTH CHECKING OUT!

www.morpheustales.com - 70 -

Estronomicon Spring/Summer 2009  

The eZine of fantasy, sci-fi and horror

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