Category Archives: Dark

Low Tide

I’m always happy to use the words eldritch and horror in the same sentence. The stone the tide unearthed showed carvings of creatures: which creatures I wasn’t sure, but they possessed a heaping helping of tentacles, wings, eyes, and talons.

That explained a lot. The mysterious disappearances from the beach, the green lights hovering over the moonless bay, the shrieking of ghastly voices on windless nights.

This was perfect.

There is a demographic who would risk madness and death to glimpse anything described as eldritch horror.

I started the R’yleh Diving Club and waited for the freaks to pour in.

 

 

 

The nightmare corpse-city of R’lyeh…was built in measureless eons behind history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars. There lay great Cthulhu and his hordes, hidden in green slimy vaults.

— H. P. Lovecraft, “The Call of Cthulhu” (1928)

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The Family Legacy

The Family Legacy

The basement stank of burned flesh.

“It’s a gateway to outside our world,” my dad said, pointing to the hole. “They never stop coming, but light attracts them.”

I adjusted my night vision goggles. “Can we block it up?”

“You don’t think I’ve tried?”

A stygian tendril snaked out. Dad’s machete came down, severing it cleanly. I heard a shriek.

“They do that sometimes.” He tossed the writhing limb into the incinerator.

“What if they’re intelligent, if they need help?”

“We can’t risk it,” he said. “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it. All blood is black in the dark.”

 

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Carving at Hades’ Chains

FF198 J S Brand

copyright J.S. Brand

 

“It takes patience,” the lunatic had said. “A sledgehammer won’t work. Only beauty overcomes death.”

By the light of a bone-white moon, I felt my way to my mother’s grave, carrying a purloined hammer and chisel. I started carving swirls into the marble, then starbursts and graceful figures until I transformed that baleful guardian into revivifying craftsmanship. I prayed I would see her again—not some ghastly reanimation, but really her.

“There was a grave robbery,” my dad said at breakfast. “Someone destroyed a headstone. The body is missing.”

My soul leapt.

“It’s the one right next to your mother’s.”

 


A Date with Death

FF190 Dale Rogerson

copyright Dale Rogerson

A Date with Death

The moon was a milky corpse eye shining over the Lopinot Estate, Trinidad’s most haunted site. Inside, flashlights beams swept back and forth.

One disappeared.

“Honey?” There was no answer. She listened. A scream came from out in the jungle. Just an animal. Probably.

Creak. She hid her light. Come on, she thought.

Nothing.

A light appeared in the next room. “Hey, I found the basement!” he said, poking his head out. “It looks like there’s a grave. Let’s go down and sit in the dark.”

“Awesome!” She kissed him hard. “I love you. This is the best anniversary ever.”

I wrote this story for my wife Leah. As of tomorrow we will have been married for sixteen years, and I’m sure one of our anniversaries in the future will be spent exploring a haunted house in the dead of night looking for ghosts.


My Terrible, Horrible, Heroic Summer

Writing Prompt #1: Write about going back to school after summer vacation.

Writing Prompt #5: Write out the best or the worst day of your life.

I dreaded going back to school after such a summer, dreaded seeing the breathless looks of admiration and hearing the praise from teachers and students alike. I didn’t want to endure the fame when all I felt inside was agony. Finally though, the day came, and I went.

“There he is!” I heard a girl whisper to her friend as I walked down the hall.

“Are you sure?”

“Of course. I saw him on TV.”

Everyone had seen me on TV. I must have given a hundred interviews in the last two months, but the worst was the one they played over and over, the one right after it had happened, when I was dirty and out of breath and wearing that blood-stained T-shirt that I couldn’t bear to wear again, but couldn’t bear to throw out.

My first class was English with Mrs. Robins. “I want everyone to write about what they did this summer, okay?” She giggled slightly and glanced over at me. “When you’re finished, maybe I’ll get a few of you to read yours out.” She glanced over again. Other kids were looking too now. We all knew who would be the first person “randomly” chosen to read.

I played baseball with my friend Terry, I wrote. There, I was done. I’d done that.

Mrs. Robins walked by, looked down, and frowned. “Write about the most important thing that happened to you. You know.” She gave me a meaningful look and walked away.

I closed my eyes and for the first time in more than a month, I let myself go back to that overcast Saturday morning when it had all happened, when I had become a national hero. The worst day of my life.

*        *        *

It had rained the night before, on that day, and when I left my house before dawn and walked the mile and a half to the bus stop, the air smelled clean and freshly showered. It took the bus forty minutes to get to the city and then fifteen minutes for me to walk to Precious Angels Orphanage. Lily was waiting for me outside. She took my hand, almost shyly, then leaned over and kissed me softly on the lips.

“Was it hard to sneak out this time?” I asked as we walked down the street, heading downtown.

“Nah, Frances was fast asleep. Easy.”

“Will you get in trouble?” I asked. She shrugged and squeezed my hand.

We walked all the way down to the harbor and had ice cream at a small parlor. My ice cream melted as I watched Lily savor every bite, letting her eyes close in silent pleasure.

“Do you ever get ice cream in there?”

“Of course.” She snorted. “It’s not Oliver Twist.” Then, grasping her bowl in both hands, she crossed her eyes and in a terrible British accent said, “Please sir, may I have some more Rocky Road.” I laughed so hard I almost fell out of my chair. It was then, when I was gasping for breath and trying not to pee myself, that I realized how much I loved this girl. It made me glow inside, like I was Ironman with an untouchable arc reactor, powered by Lily.

“So what do your parents think of me?” Lily asked, as we walked along the beach, watching the waves roll in. There was an odd smell of rot in the air coming from somewhere out to sea.

“They’re dying to meet you,” I said.

“What did you tell them?”

I shrugged. “The truth.” I looked out to sea, not looking at her. Lily coughed and wrinkled her nose at the smell but I felt like it was at me, as if the stench of my lies were rolling off me.

No one knew about me and Lily. It wasn’t that she was an orphan. It wasn’t that her mother had died of a drug overdose when she was five and she had never had any other family. I knew that wouldn’t matter to my parents, that they would love her like a daughter. They would love her so much they might even try to adopt her and then . . .

And then she would have parents who loved her and everything she’s ever dreamed of and I would have lost her forever because you can’t date your sister even your adopted sister, ran the frantic undercurrent of thought I would never allow to be voiced, not even in the lonely sub-basements of my mind. If no one knew, no one could ever call me petty or selfish, or accuse me of maybe, just maybe taking everything away from Lily because boyfriends might come and go, but parents are a strictly limited commodity.

The smell was getting worse and I was just about to suggest we get back to the city when the ocean started to recede, like watching the tide go out in fast forward. The word tsunami bolted through my mind, and I looked out to sea, dreading to see that mountain of briny death rushing towards us. What I saw was even worse.

It was some sort of thing rising from the water, taller than any known animal, crawling on four legs out of the sea until its vast barnacle-encrusted bulk was swinging free of the water. It was not heading directly for us, but towards the city.

Lily was smarter than me. She was already pulling at my hand, trying to run not towards the city but away from it down the beach. I ran with her, but turned back to take one last look. A tail whipped out of the water and sliced towards us, four feet above the ground. I dropped and pulled Lilly with me, but she stumbled and fought to stay upright. I screamed at her, “Get down, Lily!” but as I said her name, I heard the sickening crunch as the tail hit her and threw her across the beach.

The next moment, I was kneeling beside her, praying with all my might, although I could see it was hopeless. She had just enough life left to squeeze my hand before she died.

No cameras caught the next five minutes and so no one knows how I did it. They’ve even tried to hypnotize me to find out. Here is all I remember: wet, foul-smelling scales that went up and up like a mountain. It was like a dream, just climbing that mountain of horror, fueled by rage, hoping to find Lily at the top, knowing it was all in vain, climbing anyway.

They tell me that I must have climbed up the creature’s back and stabbed it in the eye with a piece of driftwood. I have to take their word for it. They found me lying on the dead creature’s head, my arm up to the elbow in its eye socket, still clutching a three-foot piece of driftwood like some poor man’s Excalibur. I’ve seen video of that, so it must be true.

Four people died that day on the beach in the space of five minutes, including Lily, but they were practically forgotten as people breathlessly calculated and exclaimed on how many lives I had saved. No one connected me with Lily. No one questioned the blood on my shirt; they didn’t know it was hers, and I didn’t tell them. It was like I still wanted to keep her all to myself, even the bloody shirt and the pain that ate away at me like cancer. I couldn’t go to her funeral. I held one for her by myself, the night after my appearance on the Late Show. I thought about joining her, decided against it.

*        *        *

I opened my eyes. Everyone else in the class were still writing, describing in detail that one camping trip they took, the girl they met at the movies, the swimming party they went to. Mrs. Robins was still glancing my way every few seconds, silently urging me to write the glorious hero story they were all expecting.

I took out a clean piece of paper, took a deep breath and began to write:

This summer I lost someone I loved. Her name was Lily.


Black Market Bacchanalia

FF172 Ted Strutz

copyright Ted Strutz

Down among the subway tunnels, past the sign of the pansy crapper is the lair where the Donkey-boys rave. Anyone’s welcome, but they have a trial—test magic, they say—a special stone passed across your forehead. If it turns blue, you’re free to party but if it’s red, you have to leave something behind.

I’ve gone twice: two reds and two terrible losses. The first time I hopped out; the second time hobos carried my legless body out.

Come back anytime, they said. If it’s blue, all is forgiven and all is returned. I just need a way back.


Dear Aunt Hattie…

Dear Aunt Hattie Letter

I refolded the yellowed paper and after slipping it back into its crinkled envelope, I set it back against the gravestone. As I stood up, I saw a chinchilla staring at me from the top of a gravestone twenty feet away. Its eyes seemed to glow in the dying twilight. I’d never seen one in the wild before.

The sun sunk below the hills and the cemetery was plunged into darkness. I bolted for my car, every second dreading to hear tiny, skittering footsteps on the path behind me.

 

 

 

 

 

chinchilla gif


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