For more information about the author, Meryl S. Fortney (a.k.a. R.S.F) or her work, visit The Pax Integral. And as always, thank you for reading!
Zombie Fever: Origins (Volume 1), by B.M. Hodges
Description: “A chilling beginning for a zombie series.” -Derrik Spence, Horror & Fear Review
“I could swear someone was creeping outside my window after I read this!” -UbiquitousEarl
Tomas decides to spend the summer with his father, who works
as a security guard for Vitura Pharmaceuticals in San Diego.
Soon after his arrival, his father disappears without a trace.
Tomas searches for his father, only to discover Vitura is more than it seems to be.
For those who love zombie horror and can’t get enough of
The Walking Dead, World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide…
the ZOMBIE FEVER series is a must read!!!
Once Tomas began to calm, the woman slipped away and sat back down.
“Son, my name is Karl Bertrand and this is Dr. Greer. I’m in charge of the San Diego biological research and development division of Vitura Pharmaceuticals and Dr. Greer is our senior scientist in residence.” He took a deep breath, “Let me begin by saying that I knew your father well. I worked with him for years. He was a good man. Courageous. And his death was not in vain.” He swiveled around and tapped out a code on the wall. “However, before we discuss the circumstances of your father’s unfortunate death, I think it’s best to show you his heroism first.”
The room went dark and a screen made from light appeared as though floating above the center of the conference table, suspended in the air between Tomas and the two Vitura representatives, a logo with Vitura Pharma printed underneath turned slowly on the display.
The screen went blank and then there was Andy walking down a hallway, his aviator glasses hanging from his lapel. He was fishing out a cigarette from a crumpled soft pack pulled out of his shirt pocket. At the bottom right of the screen the date and time read yesterday at 3:23 am. He almost made it to the exit when, suddenly, the hallways lights began to flash yellow in an emergency fashion. Andy dropped his cigarettes, turned and ran down the hall shouting silently.
The camera changed to one positioned inside a large antechamber that dipped down towards the center and in the center was a sealed glass laboratory complete with air locks. And inside the glass laboratory, three scientists in powder blue bio-safety positive-pressure suits were milling around a large malfunctioning device that was spraying a fine greenish mist into the air. Andy could be seen bursting through the main doors and leaping down the stairs towards the enclosed laboratory. Inside, the three scientists were fading out of view as the green mist enveloped the clean room. Andy ran to a control panel against one of the walls. He flashed his badge against the panel and punched in a code. The mist began to clear as vents in the clean room floor began to suck out the contaminant. Then there was a flash as the camera overloaded for a second as an explosion of flames began to incinerate everything inside the glass laboratory, including the three scientists. The heat must have been tremendous as Andy had to back away to the far corner of the room and shield his eyes while the interior of the clean room was sanitized by fire. When it was over, there was nothing left in the container but steel tables and instruments, a lumpy mess where the spewing device previously stood, ash and bones.
The screen split in two and Tomas watched as several more guards appeared in the hallway outside the main room locking the thick metal and hardened glass doors. Locking his father inside. They remained behind the door, looking through the windows watching as Andy took stock of what he’d done.
There must have been a ring or a buzz because Andy looked towards the control panel, walked over, picked up a receiver and began speaking to one of the men outside who was holding another receiver pulled from a concealed panel in the wall.
Andy began shouting and cursing into the receiver. He threw it down and ran to a first aid closet against the opposite wall next to a rack of powder blue pressure suits. Tomas watched as Andy pulled out an indecently large syringe from a plastic case and inject himself in the neck. Then he sat down next to the rack of suits, his head falling slack against his chest. He slunk to the ground and lay there unconscious.
The screen vanished the way it had appeared.
Mr. Bertrand and Dr. Greer quietly waited for Tomas to collect himself. Tomas took out a pizza napkin he’d stuffed in there earlier and dabbed at his eyes.
“Your father is a hero,” Dr. Greer said.
“What your father did was stop a potential biological disaster that could have wiped out the entire population of California and the adjoining western states.” Mr. Bertrand added.
Tomas couldn’t understand what they were talking about. The video he witnessed and what they were saying only confused him further. It was if they thought he had prior knowledge that actually wasn’t there. “He killed those men. How does that make him a hero? I don’t understand.”
Mr. Bertrand smiled in sympathy, “Perhaps we need to slow things down a bit.” He pressed an unseen button and Tomas waited while the receptionist came in and served the two of them tea. Bertrand sipped his tea for a moment then said, “What do you know about Vitura Pharmaceuticals?”
Tomas let out a deep breath and after a long pause said, “Nada.”
“But surely your dad talked about his work. Everyone needs to blow off steam after a long day. Surely you discussed Vitura over dinner on occasion?”
“Look, Mister, I came to San Diego two days ago and my father drove me by the front of gate and then dropped me off to go to work. That was the last I heard from him. I looked for a telephone number on the web, saw your global website and watched a couple of clips about genetically modified wheat and a potential cure for malaria. When my father didn’t come home for two days, I took a cab down here to find him. Like I said, I know n-o-t-h-i-n-g.”
Bertrand and Dr. Greer looked at each other and Bertrand murmured, “See, I knew Andy was a company man.” He turned back to Tomas, “Then let me fill you in on some details. It will put your father’s death in perspective. Vitura Pharmaceuticals is a global conglomerate that strives to be on the cutting edge of biological ‘enhancements’, if you will. Our research and development facilities are located in eighteen countries and are second to none in advanced bio-nanotech and genetic research. From heartier strains of wheat, as you saw in our propaganda material to eradication of virulent disease, Vitura strives to make the world a better place through the manipulation of god given hereditary traits that are often taken for granted.” He sipped some more tea, “However, some of our research is…controversial. We therefore strive to maintain a small informational footprint in the media and public at large. This is why you may have not heard of us prior to your arrival in San Diego.
Two nights ago, our technicians were recalibrating an aerosol dispersal unit. What you saw in that laboratory was a malfunctioning canister of a genetically engineered bio-agent developed at Vitura called IHS. IHS is a chimeric virus engineered from the Zaire ebola virus, rabies and influenza and given super powers, if you will. It is highly contagious through human-to-human contact. It has a fatality rate of 100%. There is no treatment or cure. When the contagion is deployed, the aggressive strain infects a host body then seeks other hosts in that it provokes a certain amount of autonomic response in its victims, an urging, if you will, to spread the virus.
Our research of IHS is in the final stages and for the last two months, Vitura San Diego campus has been working day and night to fulfill the order for a military organization that shall go unnamed at this time. IHS is our crown jewel, an achievement twenty-five years ahead of its time. No other genetic research facility has come close to its magnificence.”
A chill crept into his core as he listened to the frank, matter-of-fact way in which this man was speaking about manipulating genetic abominations. To Tomas, this man sounded like a megalomaniacal opportunist sowing the seeds of world destruction. Was he actually boasting about creating a biological weapon that turns people into human dispersal units?
Dr. Greer sensed that Tomas was growing a bit agitated as he listened to Mr. Bertrand. She leaned forward and gently interrupted, turning the conversation back to his father. “IHS, while not an airborne contagion, if released into the general public has the potential to devastate the world’s population. For obvious reasons, we haven’t been able to conduct human trials; our research with primates has given rise to emergency protocols that may seem rather harsh to an outsider. When Andy died, he was following Vitura protocols to the letter. He knew exactly what he was doing in those final minutes. You see, all employees at Vitura are vetted through rigorous background checks, testing, in house education and training, from the CEO to the janitors and security guards. Everyone knows the risks of working at Vitura, as well as the rewards. Your father was no exception. Andy Overstreet’s quick actions saved potentially millions of lives.”
“So what killed him then, was it that syringe he stuck in his neck?” Tomas asked.
Zombie Fever: Origins (Volume 1), by B.M. Hodges
crappy shorts: skid marks, by Various Authors
Description: Nine objectionable tales from six under-published authors. Includes “Zombie Chimps from Mars,” “My Atomic Neighborhood,” “You’re a Moron,” “Clowns Are Scary,” “Kitchen Sink,” others. A town’s been on fire for more than fifty years; a Philly mobster aggravates his mother for the last time; some ugly killer outer space knuckle-walkers pay us a visit; two releases from guys who aren’t quite alive. Sink your teeth into this collection before it sinks its teeth into you.
From storytellers Knute Isinglass, David Jarret, Stuart Cummings Ripley, Kristian A. Rowley, A. L. Sirois and C. G. Bauer.
The first in the crappy shorts collection from crappy shorts publishing. Next up, crappy shorts: number two.
Buildings burn from the bottom up and inside out. It happens the same way, every time. First the cellar joists begin to smolder. The floor turns red hot and bursts into flame, and you run outside choking from the smoke and look for help. When you get into the street you feel how hot the pavement is, and the heat from the monster underground melts the soles of your sneakers and blisters your feet as the asphalt turns to gum. Still, no one comes.
Years ago the old high school burned down, the brick façade spilling out onto the street. Anthracite Furniture and Appliance caught a flame and burned beside the school, both buildings heaped in a permanent rubble of bricks, broken glass and charred clapboards that have been sitting in the street so long that the highway department has painted yellow traffic lines around it. You think that because they went to the trouble to paint the lines that somebody dares to believe there is still hope for this town. Here luck is scarce, found only in miracles.
Today you sit in the hot nave of St. Stan’s Church with six ancient holdouts. The air is sweltering from the mine fire below, and the old ones choke and gag like they always do from the dry heat. The sounds are not polite little throat-clearing coughs, but long, emphatic retches from a chain smoker and a coal miner.
You chant a few lines of a hymn Father Demetrius used to sing long ago. Smoke seeps up through the vents in the church’s floor and you keep a nervous eye on it. It can’t be long now. The familiar white haze gathers and begins to rise about the altar. Tears dampen the faces of the few women, all who wear head scarves and clutch rosaries. You and they are here because there is no way out of this town.
Today there is no Father Demetrius, only Nate Probolowsky. Nate gestures, trying to get the small assembly of churchgoers to hurry up and finish the hymn. He smells smoke.
You shuffle outside with the others and glance back at the church with its tall steeple, and you think it will be a miracle if it hasn’t toppled by lunch.
Lou Rosetto, a guy you know from the mine, stands in a doorway across the street. He’s downing a bottle of beer. You holler to him. He points the bottle at you in a salute.
“Whaddya say,” he hollers back.
You wonder if the fire really did start in Jimmy Taggart’s dump all those dozens of years ago like those scientists from Penn State said. The fire turned underground and followed a coal seam, and nobody could put it out. You remember when the government came into town to try, but it had taken hold in hundreds of secret and dark places, brightening tiny crevices with its ceaseless appetite for more coal. If you could see beneath the soil, the angry fire would look to you like cancer with its orange and red tentacles grabbing hold of the town and eating it from the inside out. You watched the G-men do their best to seal off its oxygen but the fire merely burned into a niche from a hundred feet away. Eventually they just gave up and let the town burn.
“Come on over, Lou,” you call. Lou steps out into the street and throws his empty bottle against a wall. It shatters into curved glass shards on the sidewalk. His feet crunch on the glass and he staggers across the street swinging his arms like an ape.
“What’s goin’ on, goofball?” he says, so close now you can smell his beery breath. He wipes his hands on his yellow windbreaker.
“St. Stan’s is going up today.”
“Today?” he says, mulling over your prediction. He shakes his head in agreement. “Well then let’s go have us some fun.”
“Could use a little fun. How much it gonna cost?” You stick your hands in your pocket and feel the coins there.
“It’ll cost you nothing, you moron.” His mouth stretches into a great big empty smile, a smile so wide because there are no teeth to get in the way.
“Then I’m game.”
“Phone booth on the corner,” Lou says, pointing then scratching the stubble on his chin.
You walk over with Lou and squeeze part way inside the phone booth with him. He picks up the phone and dials three numbers then tilts the receiver so you can hear a voice. “Nine-one-one emergency,” a sweet-sounding young thing answers. “What’s your emergency?”
“Honey, do I have an emergency for you,” Lou says.
“Please state the nature of your emergency, sir.”
“There’s a building on fire. St. Stan’s Church on Main Street.”
“Can you tell me the address, sir?” she asks, her voice anxious as if this call could break her into the big time.
“Don’t have no number. Everybody knows where St. Stan’s is. There’s flames coming out the windows and the roof. Can’t miss it.”
“The address, sir. Please give the street number and the city.”
“I’m not sure if there’s people inside, young lady, but I hear screams.” He nudges you with his elbow.
“Help, help, I’m on fire,” you howl in a high-pitched voice.
“I’m calling you from Centralia, miss,” Lou says, his voice grave. “A church on Main Street’s on fire. Send help at once!”
“Centralia?” you hear her ask, her voice wilting.
“That’s right, miss.”
“Uh… I have a rescue crew available but it can’t go into Centralia,” she says in a voice heavy with disappointment.
“And why not?” Lou asks, innocent as a spring lamb.
“Well, that town’s gone. Closed up. There may be a fire all right, sir, but it happens all the time. Either this is a prank call or you’re new to the area. Just let it burn out, sir. Keep away.”
“No, wait—” Lou says.
“Centralia’s dead,” she says. “Only a couple of stubborn people left there who won’t leave. Get out now, sir. Get out while you can.”
“Seven stubborn people, to be exact, miss. And lucky for you my friend got the ladies out of the church before they burned up,” he says in a solemn tone. You and Lou stare across the street at smoky St. Stan’s.
“Just let it burn, sir. You and your friend shouldn’t be there either. It’s unsafe…”
He laughs and hangs up.
“What’s so funny?” you ask.
“Just to hear her fight with herself not to send help. They’re trained to get out the fire trucks and the ambulances. Every time they answer the phone, they have to get the cops or the fire engines, or help with some emergency, you know? Every place but here. Jesus.”
Lou walks out of the booth and fingers a cigarette out of his shirt pocket. He searches his pants pockets for a match and squeezes his crotch. “Gotta piss,” he mutters. “The beer.” He’s dancing in front of you. “Got a match?” he asks.
“Yeah, your face and…”
“Watch it,” he growls. He gives you the finger.
“Do you have a light for this here butt?” he begs you, pursing his lips together and pointing at his cigarette with one finger.
“I do not have a light for that there butt.”
You hear the sound of glass breaking and look up at the church. A window pops out and falls ten feet to the ground with a crash. St. Stan’s is glowing red inside. Fire laps out of the empty window frame in the brick wall.
“Looks like things is heating up,” he says, encouraged. “A light for my butt.” He is off.
“No, Lou! Come back! I’ll get you some matches, you idiot…”
The fire is too hot, so you don’t chase him. You watch him get close to the burning church, holding his hands out the way a person walks in the pitch-black darkness to avoid bumping into things. He sticks his face out to the roiling flames to light his cigarette like he’s trying to kiss the fire.
“No, Lou… oh Jesus…”
A terrific crack peals out of the building and you look up as the slate roof separates. In a low groan the wall splits open and falls over on Lou in slow motion. Bricks, stained glass, and roofing shingles engulf him in a huge smoking flash and explode like a tsunami spilling out onto the street, swarming a beige Oldsmobile that hasn’t moved in a year.
Shit. That stupid son of a bitch.
You rub your eyes and squint trying to find him. You look where you last saw him trying to get a light for his cigarette. There! There’s the idiot!
“Help,” he croaks. He’s squatting with his arms over his head as if his posture could have protected him from ten tons of bricks and slate shingles raining down. He’s covered in red brick dust and lets out a long, hard cough. It’s a cough heard a million times in this town in the old days.
“I can see you, you idiot,” you yell back with relief. He stands, but in debris that’s up to his chest.
“Get me out of here,” he shouts, pleading and trying to scream, his voice hoarse, squeezing himself with both hands now, still bravely holding in his piss. You close in, trying to pick a safe trail through the fire and brimstone. When you finally get to him, you see his cigarette is lit.
“Jesus, Lou! How did you make it through that?” you ask, grabbing his collar and pulling him away. You look back and see the inside of the church exposed in a lurid way, in a way God surely never intended. The rest of the ceiling is rumbling, and without the wall for support it looks like it’s ready to go. Lou, cut up and filthy, stumbles a few feet and stops. You look around the front of him and see he is finally pissing, taking a leak on a board burning on the sidewalk.
“Look,” he says. “I’m doing my part to help put out the fire.” He finishes the piss in a spasm. “I think that busted out window must’ve fell right over me. Ahhh…”
Lou shakes dry then zips up. He takes a long drag on his hard won cigarette. “But I made it. You know something, you big moron? I’m parched. How about we walk over to Dewey’s for a beer?”
You think it over. Dewey’s is a little tavern over in the town of Sugar Notch, about half a mile away. You make the hike almost everyday now. Centralia’s last two bars, Near to Beer and the Stumble Inn, both closed years ago.
“Got any money?” you ask, like it’s the most natural question in the world.
“Money!” he says, chuckling. His pink gums look ridiculous against his filthy face. “Who can think of money at a time like this? I only want one goddamn beer.”
You see where the fire has burned his jacket. The stuffing inside is still smoldering. You look at the pleading furrows on his sooty face and clap your hand onto his shoulder. You make up your mind about Dewey’s. “Long as you wash your face when we get there.”
“Yeah, I’ll wash my face in beers!”
“One friggin’ beer, Lou. That’s it.”
There’s his smile again, a smile as wide as Centralia’s empty highway. He puts his arm over your shoulders and you both toddle toward Dewey’s. He tightens his grip, some to hold himself steady, but most out of friendship. You slip your hand into your pocket to jingle the coins there and smile back at him because you’ve just seen the rarest of scenes, a miracle in Centralia.
crappy shorts: skid marks, by Various Authors
Complete Tales of da Yoopernatural, by PD Allen
Description: Tales of da Yoopernatural harkens back to the tradition of spooky stories told around the campfire late at night, combining the feel of the oral tradition with modern sensibilities. In these tales the author has created a world of myth and legend, a world which looks a lot like the one we inhabit but is just a bit skewed with the occasional portal to other dimensions, appearance of mythical creatures, spirits, ghosts and more. The stories range from the prosaically dreamlike to the disturbing, without a lot of graphic bloodshed or gratuitous violence.
Connie Hillman follows her former lover into madness. In the ancient Huron Mountains, she encounters ghosts, cannibalistic Weendigo, and a mysterious giant while trying to rescue the man she cannot stop caring about, Phil Waverly, an anthropologist lost in his obsession to prove his own demented theories.
The Buck of Mulligan Plains
Henry Kincaid enters into a mythic hunt that will bring him face to face with the Lord of the Wilderness. Meanwhile, his lover, Lilith Gordon, fears that she will lose him forever.
The Secret Life of Trees
The northern woodlands are home to many strange sights. Some say the ghosts of fallen forests haunt the region, while others say it is the ghosts of the lumberjacks who felled the ancient trees. A few speak of enchantments even more mysterious than ghosts, marvels of the fallen wilderness that linger, haunting woodlands and claiming the lives of solitary hunters or backpackers. Carl Landau will soon discover the truth behind these local legends.
The Giant Killer
Five-year-old Rene DeClaire embarks on an adventure with fairies and a giant-killing dwarf.
Afraid of the Dark
Drawn on by a contrasting mixture of attraction and repulsion, will Andrew Erickson uncover what secrets lie hidden in the absolute darkness of the haunted Laughing Eagle Mine before they cost him his life, and that of his friends? Join him on his harrowing descent into a nightmare world carved out of the ancient basalt of the Keweenaw Peninsula.
An enchanted, ancient sturgeon seeks to communicate with Bruce Torvalds, bridging the gap between man and nature. But is it already too late for Bruce to escape his social preconditioning? This tale demonstrates that the greatest struggle is not between man and nature, but between man and his own mindset.
A Killer’s Pride
Out of a misguided sense of loyalty, young Ojibwa Indian Stephen DeClaire ignores a call to follow the Red Path. He joins the army along with his friend Skip Neunan and is shipped to Iraq just in time to take part in the razing of Fallujah. Stephen finds himself the focus of a struggle between the Buffalo Maiden and the Beast of Babylon. In the fight for his soul, he learns powerful lessons about imperialism, the nature of war and civilization. Will he survive the invasion with his soul and mind intact, or will he follow his friend into the darkness?
Say EEEK to da UP, eh.
Henry Kincaid stepped through the brush on the side of the road, north of theDeadRiverStorageBasininMichigan’sUpper Peninsula. Snow dusted the sides of his orange hunting coat as he did so. He did not know why he wore the coat. The area was so remote, nobody else would hunt out here. They said it was haunted. The terrain was a tangle of cedar forest, swamp and craggy bluffs. The only open fields were found along the Mulligan Plains and farther north in the Yellow Dog Plains. No one thought there was much worth hunting in this wilderness. But Henry knew better.
A couple of months back, he saw a buck out here while he was fishing in the storage basin. The biggest deer he ever laid eyes on stepped out of the early morning mist to drink from the waters of the basin. The first moment he spotted it, Henry made up his mind he was coming back to hunt that buck in the fall.
Finished drinking, the buck raised its head and looked him right in the eye where he sat in his boat out on the water. In that moment, communication was made and a bond was forged between man and beast. It was as though the stag acknowledged that Henry was worthy of the hunt.
Henry worked as a fishing and hunting guide in the summer and fall. He also wrote a column for a regional outdoor magazine. To help make ends meet these days, he worked part-time in the sporting goods department of theMarquetteWal-mart, where his reputation brought in a lot of business. If anyone could hunt down this stag, it would be he.
He had little use for superstitions, so he gave no thought whatsoever to tales the woods was haunted. On a dare, he once spent a night on Jasper Knob, during a full moon. Many folks believed anyone who dared do that would never come down from the knob in the morning. He came down, stiff and sore from sleeping on the hard banded iron and jasper formation, but otherwise none the worse for wear. True, he had some very odd dreams up there, but what of that.
Today he planned to scout along the Mulligan Plains, north of theDeadRiver Basin. If he found no sign of the buck he was after, he would double back once he reached theYellowDogRiver. Based on what he knew of animal behavior, this buck probably ranged no more than a couple of miles from where he spotted it at the storage basin. Most likely, it made its home out here on the Mulligan Plains, where the terrain was easy and it could find plenty of fodder. He would canvass the southern end of the plains. Last night’s snow should make tracking a simple matter.
Three inches of snow fell the previous night. It was a light, fluffy snow that coated everything, transforming field and forest into a white, crystalline wonderland. Henry loved to explore after such a snowfall. It was like venturing into another world. Everything was transformed into a delicate fairyland. That alone made this trip worthwhile.
Over this enchanted terrain was plainly written the lives of snowshoe hare, fox, pine marten, otter, bobcat, and deer. It was a world of intimate majesty, whose glories were whispered in the richest of tones, a secret land of the winter wilderness.
South of the highway, and throughout most of the UP, this winter miracle was invaded and defiled by snowmobiles. Up here, however, in the land of the Hurons, the terrain was too rough for snowmobiling. Farther up, the Huron Mountain Club did their utmost to discourage trespassers. This land remained a sanctuary for winter magic, accessible now by foot, and in the dead of winter only by snowshoe. And that was the way Henry liked it.
He did not need to share the wonders out here with anyone else. For him, a trek into the wilderness was a private affair, almost introspective. The wilderness shared its greatest treasures only with those who deserved them.
By himself, he trod softly through this delicate world, marking it as little as possible in his passage. Had he brought anyone else along, they would be invaders, marring the landscape with their tracks and disturbing the peace with their voices. To treat the wilderness in such a manner was disrespectful, causing nature to retreat to safety instead of freely offering its most elusive fruits. That is why Henry hunted at such times with only a bow, so as not to disturb this peaceful realm even with the noise of a gunshot.
Henry spotted the buck he was after. It was standing on the next hill, regally poised as though surveying its kingdom. The animal topped the rise as Henry made his way along the edge of the woods, looking for tracks or spoor.
It was a bold move for the stag to approach an open rise like that. This time of year, deer were usually much more careful about exposing themselves. Which was why Henry was looking for sign along the edge of the woods, more than one hundred yards away.
That was too far for a good shot with the bow. It was almost as if the deer knew it, and also knew he carried no gun. It must have spotted him the moment it cleared the hill, yet it made no move; almost as though it was daring him.
Very quietly, very slowly, trying to match his movement to the slight gusts of the weak breeze, one step at a time Henry backed into the woods. He moved incrementally, taking advantage of shadows and vegetation to slowly camouflage himself. All the while, he watched the stag and kept his mind empty, at one with the woods and the plain.
He planned to move around the rise and look for a way to draw closer to the deer, if it stayed where it was. The woods was dense. It took all of his skill and concentration to move silently without disturbing so much as a branch. Every step must be measured and strategically executed. For more than an hour he worked his way around to outflank the rise.
When Henry was employed as a guide, he took his charges where they could find abundant game without disturbing the land too much. On his own, he sought to marry himself to nature to the extent that his presence would cause no stir at all within the ecosystem. He never had a wife or children to bring camping, and that was fine by him.
He did have a lady friend, Lilith Gordon, to spend time with when he was in Negaunee. Lilith was a light-skinned, red-haired beauty. They hiked and camped together often enough. Yet each of them valued their privacy. She understood the time he spent out in the woods was most personal and could not be shared with anyone else. She liked their relationship just the way it was, and did not push for anything more permanent. Lilith joked that he was a creature of the wilderness she had coaxed out and tamed. Yet, like all wild creatures, he could never truly be tamed, and would one day disappear back into the forests.
It was only half in jest. Henry was more truly at home out here than ever he had been anywhere else. Secretly, he hoped when the time came death would claim him in the wilderness, leaving his body where it would never be found.
Lilith was herself somewhat of a loner, viewed by the locals as an eccentric. She was a painter and spent much of her time camping out where she could work on landscapes, trying to capture the spirit of the land on canvas. She did very well at it. Henry found her paintings mesmerizing. They called to him and stirred him in the same way as did the wilderness itself. Her paintings hung in many of the summer cabins around here, as well as in houses downstate, inWisconsinandIllinois. Last summer she asked Henry to go with her to an exhibit of her work at a majorChicagogallery. Henry declined; he felt totally alienated in big cities.
Some of the locals thought Lilith was a witch. Henry doubted there was more truth to this than any of the other local legends. Lilith was simply a newcomer — even though she had lived here for nearly a decade — and her ways were different. She was interested in herbology and spent a lot of time gathering herbs and preparing them. And she kept track of the phases of the moon. But she had no cauldron, no coven, and the only time she danced naked in the woods was to entertain and seduce him. Henry smiled fondly at the memory of that evening.
The buck made no move, the sentinel of the Mulligan Plains, monitoring its domain. Once in a while it would paw the ground, finding something to nibble on beneath the snow. It followed Henry’s progress, turning so as to always face his position.
To the north, the woods reached out into the plain behind the hill. The rise itself shallowed out, its backside cloaked in blueberry bushes. Henry stayed in the woods until he was northwest of the buck’s position. It was now maybe seventy yards away. Henry slowly drew an arrow, nocking and holding it ready.
Crouched down so he would not tower over the blueberries, Henry stalked up the rise toward the buck. He wished he had not worn hunter orange.
Stalking is as much about meditation as about stealthy movement. You must empty your mind and make yourself one with the environment and your quarry. Every movement should flow through the environment as naturally and unambiguously as water flows through a stream. This was more difficult to do dressed in bright orange, but it was not impossible.
Henry moved to close the distance. Not a step, or even a breath, was out of place. Halfway up the rise, he paused to raise the bow.
The buck stood there watching him all this time. At the moment he took aim, the animal turned away and was gone down the other side of the rise. It was as though the buck knew the exact moment when it was no longer safe.
Henry could not believe it. He continued to crouch, aiming his bow at nothing. Then he stood, his knees cracking after stooping so long, and hurried to the top of the rise.
There was no sign of the stag anywhere. The only tracks showed where the animal stood. Looking around him, he saw nothing but smooth, unmarred snow. It was as though the buck leapt into the air and flew away.
From the crest of the rise, he could see the woods he passed through while flanking the stag, over a hundred yards to the west, walled off by a stone bluff. To the northeast was Mulligan Creek. On the other side of the creek was snow-clad brush that gave way to marsh and cedar swamp farther on. More bluffs blocked the east. Southward stretched the open plains, leading back the way he came.
It was not possible for the buck to reach cover in the short amount of time it took him to crest the rise. Nor could it have gone anywhere without leaving tracks in the snow. Yet there were none.
Henry stood there, dumbfounded. The animal must be here. Why, then, could he not see it?
Taking deep breaths to calm himself, Henry reasoned out the problem. If the stag was here, it must be hiding. Looking about, his eyes fell on a clump of bush maybe fifteen yards away, on the northeast side of the rise. Studying the distance between him and this brush, he made out two depressions in the snow, several yards apart, which were the only trail left by the deer.
Behind the brush, low to the ground, was what appeared for all the world to be a fallen log covered with snow. Except that, as he studied it, Henry became certain it was not a fallen log.
Holding his bow ready with arrow nocked, he took several steps toward the bushes. As he neared it, the stag bolted from cover. It was a huge animal, with a magnificent rack atop its head. For a moment, Henry thought it might charge him. Then it turned and raced for the creek and the woodlands beyond.
He had only one chance. As the beast turned to escape, for one brief moment it presented its side to him. Henry raised his bow, aimed and loosed the arrow. As the arrow sailed, a gust of wind swept up the rise, lifting the shaft and throwing off his aim.
The arrow embedded itself high in the buck’s shoulder. The buck leapt. Then it charged away with hardly a limp, despite the shaft buried deep in its left shoulder. Before Henry could draw another arrow, the stag was gone, leaping across Mulligan Creek and disappearing into the brush on the other side.
Back at her cabin on the north side of Teal Lake, Lilith Gordon paused from splitting firewood as she felt something odd passing through the forest about her. She was closely attuned to the woodlands. It was the secret behind her paintings: she used them to communicate with her subjects.
And there was no place to which she was more closely attuned than theHuronMountains. Though he traversed every corner of this wilderness, Henry was not as intimately acquainted with it as was Lilith. There was only one other person who knew this land better than she, and that was Grandma Rena, who had lived in these hills for nearly one hundred years, practicing the old ways.
Lilith opened herself to the woods, trying to understand what was happening. There was change afoot; a transition was taking place. A rite of succession was playing out somewhere in the lands north of her. And somehow, she knew Henry was involved.
Laying aside her axe, Lilith pulled on the mackinaw she took off while chopping wood. Then she climbed into her Jeep and drove off. She had to get to Grandma Rena’s as quickly as possible. Grandma Rena would know what was happening, and what to do about it.
Complete Tales of da Yoopernatural, by PD Allen
Hey guys, Ryan S. Fortney again! I wanted to slap this little excerpt over here to see what people think of it, so lemme know! Here it is.
Meryl screams visceral, one word erupting from her mouth, “RUUUUUN!!!!” Her voice pierces through the slobbering moans of the dead–we’re scrambling around with our feet and our weapons and the oncoming horde is at fever pitch.
The street leading outward from Allentown may as well be uphill and a hundred damn miles long.
I just woke up.
I just got out of bed.
It never fuckin’ ends.
Aiming a few rounds behind, “WHERE THE HELL ARE WE GOING?!”
“AWAY!” Rob pats my shoulder and the bottom of his weapon taps the bone, the firing of a bullet sending a deafening ring to my ear.
Elbow jabbing him, “FUCK!”
Meryl’s up ahead checking for unlocked cars and a set of keys as we continue to move. Seconds later we’re piling into a jet-black Charger–She’s at the wheel, I’m shotgun, Ed and Rob squeeze together and we’re squealing away.
But as we careen onto the open road something else emerges in the rear-view. A gigantic big rig with mounted weapons and a steel shutter windshield–enormous Z across the grill.
I curl up a fist and slam the glove box, “COME ON, GIVE US A GODDAMN BREAK!” Screaming at the glass.
A hail of bullets rain down in an intervention we hadn’t fuckin’ asked for. She grips the wheel tight and swerves around, dodging an abandoned vehicle and another ridiculously long burst of ammunition, but there’s just too much shit littering the road.
Everything flashes before me and we’re barely missing the back-end of an almost flattened Prius, going end over end, defying gravity and only one thing buzzes around inside of my head.
If I lose her today, right now, it would be the end of me.
Hands and arms against the roof, holding balance desperately, she glances a steel eye at me and as all four wheels come pounding to the pavement, she’s concentrating again, on the road to New Jersey.
Modern Tales of Horror, by Matt McAvoy
Description: A trio of dark and chilling tales by Matt McAvoy, each with a distinctively contemporary undertone; available individually for download.
“THE BLACK LINE”
The author’s first foray into supernatural horror.
Modern day London – a proud day for a very proud man, and why shouldn’t he be? Boris has worked so very hard, and is now launching his new driver-less tube train on the pioneering Tower Line. But while some consider the line a triumph, not all are as pleased; in fact some, the more spiritually-attuned perhaps, are downright terrified.
For the line, along with its creators, hides a secret… a secret darker than the tunnels under the Thames, and darker than the stories around the bodies buried there. As dark as the blackest evil of which man is capable. Bear witness – in the tunnel there is no way out.
WARNING – ADULTS ONLY
Imagine you’re falling; flipping over and over through the sky – not in a dream, but in startling reality. A loud bang then nothing… nothing but the wind rushing past you and the sound of your own terrified screaming.
You pray, desperately pray for salvation – death, madness, or a miracle in that welcoming bed of clouds.
Scream and pray – you have nothing else.
Meet Ollie. Well-educated and spoilt – a rich kid, fun-loving party-goer and brutal sociopath.
Ruthlessly arrogant Ollie takes what he wants, when he wants it. But Ollie’s going to learn, the hard way, that for every action there’s a consequence, and for every bounty a price.
Because living with Granjy isn’t the bed of roses he thought it was going to be; the blind old lady sees everything – sees him – and most of all sees the monster he is becoming, in a way that nobody else can. And that strange and terrible perception that surely only she has frightens Ollie more than he’ll ever admit.
It was she that spoilt him rotten-to-the-core, and now his payment is due. Granjy will teach him new meaning of the word ‘remorse’.
Granjy’s eyes punish.
They threaten, warn, scold and torment me. Blind and blinding, milky-white like acetylene, they cut deep into me; the agony is every bit as excruciating.
I’m the only one that can see them, as clear as day – as clearly as I see that light-switch, or that chair, or those curtains. I see them all the time.
Nobody else even knows they’re there – nobody sees them; but one day, maybe soon, maybe not so, they will. They’ll all see them, and they’ll know, just like Granjy’s eyes know, and always did; they’ll know everything. They’ll know me.
You may think I’m melodramatic, but it isn’t my imagination. They are there, those eyes, and they speak, without words.
Suffer, they tell me, with harsh intent. Suffer.
I always loved the old lady; I was always her favourite. She was an absolute diamond of a woman, and I loved my Granjy to bits.
She’s cared for me my whole life; she always looked out for me and I know she’ll always be watching over me. When nobody else would, she stuck by me through thick and thin, good and bad. And that’s a lot of bad… a lot.
I think perhaps some of my first memories were of Granjy – funny, the first, the last, and everything in between. Profound that as a child I could remember very little except playing with my sister on that shiny plastic slide while Granjy brought out Ribena and home-made cakes made especially for us.
She’s my grandmother – her name is Georgina. I always called her “Granjy” from when I was as young as I can remember. When I had two nans (and may still have – haven’t seen the other one in years and don’t particularly care to) I called them “Granny-G” and “Granny-M” (it doesn’t matter what the M stands for – forget the other one); this became “Granjy”. My grandfather died young, having made a fortune in antiques, and I never really knew him.
Happy days they were, and happy families in that beautiful great garden of hers that I never fell out of love with – with Granjy the happiest of all.
My sister and I adored that big garden, though probably me more; it was a boy’s paradise – twenty acres or so, full of brooks and nooks, trees to climb and archways to run through. When we were children we would spend hours playing in it, splashing around, making things and marvelling at the wildlife. We would fib to each other about the animals we’d seen, and I learnt the names of every species of bird that lived there. Granjy loved gardening, and she was very good at it.
You would never really know if she was in a bad mood – she certainly never let on to us. She just spoilt us, cuddled us, stood up for us if we were being told off and generally made us happy.
Of course you could say she spoilt us too much; with hindsight I would say undoubtedly. Most intelligent parents nowadays (though still, sadly, not enough) will reach consensus that such unconditional love and solidarity does not make for the child’s best development, and I think it’s probably fair to say that I came to take Granjy’s for granted. I didn’t really need it from my parents – didn’t really need it full-stop, in fact – but even at a very young age, I realized that punishment generally usually consists of deprivation of some sort – toys, pocket-money, whatever – so I welcomed Granjy’s adoration. I knew what side my bread was buttered, so to speak, and that she was the primary source of all these little bounties that would be conditionally denied by others; I knew that whatever I did wrong, she would never deprive me of anything. This went for material as well as emotional provision.
Put quite simply, the way Granjy spoilt me, I didn’t really need anybody else, and so I could pretty much get away with being as naughty as I liked.
So, later in life, when my family weren’t there, Granjy always was; when my friends and everybody else turned their backs on me, not her.
I remember one time when I was a kid, about eight or nine, I got caught stealing a Walkman off of the display in Rumbelows (this was before the days everything was electronically tagged in those places, and the Walkman was a tape one, not a CD). Well, I didn’t really get caught as such, at least not at the time anyway.
It’s just that everybody else had one – I think it was the film Back to the Future which really made them popular – all my friends, even my sister (another one who doesn’t keep in touch anymore). Presents bought for them by their parents, so their kids wouldn’t be deprived; keeping up with the neighbours and all that.
But not my parents. No, they would never buy me anything – always said I had to wait for Christmas or my birthday or some other sh**ty excuse, just like Big Sis’ had had to; said that money didn’t grow on trees and I had to learn the value of it. I wouldn’t have minded if we had been poor, but they had more money than all my friends put together – I remember when they bought their house in Surrey they said it cost around a quarter of a million, and this was in the eighties!
Unbelievable; so ironic that the kid the other parents were trying to keep up with was me, and I wasn’t even allowed one!
So anyway, I nicked it. Bold as brass in my school uniform, I saw it on display and just took it. You’ll find that’s always been a problem of mine: I just take what I want – it’s got me into several scrapes over the years, that’s for sure.
The mistake I made was leaving the Walkman lying around in my bedroom, still with the price-sticker on it. I couldn’t actually use it because I hadn’t got around to stealing the earphones yet. Well, when Mum found it she went nuts (she had some temper when she was angry); I lied and lied but I suppose I couldn’t convince her I’d managed to save up thirty-five quid.
So you know what the bitch did? She marched me down to Rumbelows to apologize and give the thing back, and even offered the taff manager her full support if he wanted to press charges. Luckily the guy didn’t want to – he said I’d probably learnt my lesson and “wouldn’t make that mistake again”. Laughing too while he said it, before banning me from the store. Laughing, at me! Well, I was the one laughing a few years later when I nicked a video recorder out of the same shop – not because I wanted to, but just for the hell of it.
Anyway, when Granjy heard what had happened she came down to the house and caused a bit of a scene – not with me, but with my parents. She reminded them how hard her husband had worked to make this money so they didn’t have to, and that his money, not theirs, had made it possible for them to live in this lovely house of theirs. She told them Oliver (that’s me) has as much right to his granddad’s wealth as they do. You know what she did then? She went down to Rumbelows and bought me a Walkman, brand-new and in the box – the forty-five pound model too. Said if Mum and Dad had a problem with this they should take it up with her. And I told them that too, in my manner – cocky little sod I was, always have been.
It wasn’t long after that they moved us deeper into Surrey, outside the M25, away from Granjy. After that they didn’t see as much of her – nowhere near in fact.
I’ve got a hundred stories like the Walkman one, and she always stood up for me; whenever I got into trouble, she helped me, whenever I wanted something, she bought it, if I needed money she handed it over. And always with a smile and a little kiss on the cheek. “Ollie Bear” she called me; I was always her favourite. Over the years she and I would become closer while my parents and I drifted further apart. I started to spend a lot of time with her.
We’ve shared this big old house now for some fifteen years, give or take, and even now she’s dead, she’s here with me. Of course, she knows more about me now; much more.
That crack in the ceiling has been getting worse for a while – I’ve been keeping a close eye on it; now I’ve noticed plaster has started crumbling away. I thought I’d done a good job at the time. Sub-standard materials I guess – never been much of a plasterer; should have used exterior rendering, made things to last, like Granjy always told me Grandad used to. As I look up at the crack, I can almost feel the pieces of it crumbling onto me, but I know that’s just my imagination.
Things that may seem trivial to some bother me a lot more now than they used to – now she’s gone. I find myself agonizing over the little disagreements we had; oh, we never really argued for the most part – she always had a smile for me and a little pinch on the cheek, even when I was totally out of order – but when you live with somebody for that long… well, inevitably the pressure will tell.
I’ve really found myself questioning some of the things I did when I was younger. They say guilt affects people in different ways, and they may not even associate it, but I can’t say it affected my behaviour at all before she died. And since? Well… I suppose “guilt” is as good a word as any.
Out of the corner of my eye I see that cat coming through the open window. That stupid old cat that just won’t die – God, I hate that f***ing thing. A black and white, noisy, smelly, smug, angry-looking pussy; it looks at me, judging. The cat hates me as much as I hate it, and always has.
It sits at my feet often, glaring at me, grinning and daring me to kick it. It knows I won’t, but still tempts me. Sometimes I flinch and it darts away.
Granjy adored the cat, absolutely adored it. It’s lived in this house longer than I have, so comes and goes as it pleases. It used to be on her lap, almost always, all day, purring lovingly as she stroked it. I often thought the cat was the only thing in the world she doted on more than me.
In the end that stupid, ugly cat was the only thing I inherited from Granjy. Well, unless, I suppose, you count this big house, that is.
Who left that window open anyway? I know I didn’t.
This house – people seem to come and go as they please. Not like before; I miss the old days, when it was just Granjy and me.
She used to look up at that big hole in the ceiling, where there used to be a Victorian brass chandelier – a great massive thing – that my granddad had salvaged in the blitz. That’s how he started – salvaging from big town-houses and antique shops destroyed in the war. I once asked Granjy if wasn’t that just in fact “looting” – it was a question I never asked again, because she just smiled at me in that freaky way she used to, and I didn’t like it.
Of course, over the past few years it had to go – the chandelier that is – along with everything else in the house, to pay for her care.
Anyway, she would sit in her worn-down cottage-style armchair and look up at the hole, about the size of a car-tyre, asking me when I was going to get around to filling it. By this stage of her life she was becoming somewhat disagreeable, and not just a little demanding, and the strain of the situation had started to tell on me.
She had lost her eyesight to diabetes long before the chandelier was sold, so obviously couldn’t see the hole when she faced upward to it, with a sombre look on her face. Perhaps it was for the best – she would probably prefer to remember how the brass light looked in its glory and picture it in her mind. I also think she was exaggerating her point when she “looked” up at the hole, shaking her head sadly – the point being: when will I pull my lazy finger out? I asked her once why she cared, considering she couldn’t see it. As always, she just smiled and said sweetly: “Oh, Ollie Bear.” I didn’t bother asking again, because I didn’t really understand this.
I thought about lying to her – telling her I had repaired it one day when she was at the hospital. I decided, however, that there were two problems with that – firstly: I was with her at every one of those f***ing appointments, and secondly: I suspected she could sense a draught. I couldn’t feel anything from it, but then I wasn’t blind; blind people have a heightened perception don’t they? Heightened senses – smell, taste, hearing and even extra-sensory; it’s a well-known fact. That fact was one I could never really get my head around, but more about that later.
There was no reason that she should have felt a draught – this is a solid old house and directly above the living-room is a bathroom with heavy oak parquet, sealed and lacquered with several coats. But Granjy got a chill from the hole, no doubt, or certainly made a show of such, facing up and shivering the way she did. At times it was irritating.
As I got older, and started to become a little more troublesome, my parents grew to despair of me, and then to even dislike me. I really felt that I could have done with their support at times, but all they wanted was for me to learn about life the hard way – as if they had ever had to! I didn’t consider that particularly fair.
It was always inevitable that I would end up living with my unconditionally loving Granjy.
Modern Tales of Horror, by Matt McAvoy
It’s me again, author Ryan S. Fortney, with a sweet deal happening over at Smashwords (and only Smashwords) for the month of July!
From now (July 8th) and until the end of this month, PaxCorpus (along with many other titles) is 49% off! That’s 1.50 USD. That’s cheaper than a box of bullets!
Check it out here and use the coupon code SSW50 if you happen to be interested.
If you’re unfamiliar with what Smashwords is (for whatever reason), it’s an amazing place for indie authors to post and publish their work and in-turn have their book/s distributed across a myriad of networks. Thanks to SW, Pax is available pretty much everywhere. You know, except for Google Play, which requires a whole bunch of hoop-jumping, but I’m getting there!
And, just to whet your appetite, I’ll be mean and post a snippet from the rough draft of the sequel to the book which I am offering at a discounted price! HAHA
A few weeks earlier
Remember, you’re here for a reason.
“Alright ladies and gentlemen…” A specially designed Kevlar radiation suit dangles loosely from my body as I twist around to gather my unit’s attention, “This is our last trip to Harrisburg.”
Make absolutely sure you find proof that she is dead.
“We’re running low on reserves, so we’ve gotta be sure to find what’s left of the untainted supplies.” The eight-person APV trembles over the debris of Interstate Eight Three — fully armored with amazing suspension.
This is Ed’s dream vehicle, ever since we ditched that shitty cash-truck back on the outskirts of Allentown.
“You’re each equipped with an M4A1. With the flick of your wrist,” my fingers snap over a latch, “you go from semi-automatic to fully-automatic.”
Expecting combat in the middle of an irradiated wasteland?
“I don’t exactly expect to encounter any z-force, but the unlifers and the bastards that still teem from the Rift of Manhattan could be anywhere out there.” I sling my weapon over my shoulder and slide both hands down to a double-holster, switching off the safety of both handguns, each a Colt 1911.
“Dante?” Ed’s haggard voice buzzes over the small comm-speaker from the ceiling of the vehicle, “we’re approaching way-point zero.”
Nuhm De’Ara’s body. I know.
I speak to the voice inside of my head. The voice that is not my own.
“Alright, suit up!” Commanding all around as I slide a helmet down over my head and fasten each clasp and zipper that gives protection from the deadly waste outside.
“Sir!” Jacobson, one of my unit turns to me, “how much time do we have, again?”
“Right,” holding a hand in the air, “listen up! We’ve got exactly thirty-minutes. No more, no less. Be here or be left behind.”
Of course, I never made it a habit to leave anyone behind. Circumstances like these, though, with heavy radiation eating away at your clothing, there’s no time for weakness.
Our ride comes to an unnoticeable halt and the back-hatch opens outward to reveal my nostalgia, one more time.
A gust of putrid, warm air bursts in and we pour out onto the pavement. Buildings stand half erect and crumbled. The sky is orange and vomit green. The capitol building, where we had once staged all of our business, now a pale shadow of what it used to be, much like the rest of the city.
And there it is. Turning around, weapon sights ahead of me and through a scope — Harrisburg hospital, where it all came to an end.
As always, thank you for taking the time to read this and/or my work. If you happen to grab a copy of Pax, don’t forget to leave a review once you’ve finished it!
Back in 1975 Dario Argento, a filmmaker from Italy, pushed the limits of horror by exploring sexual dynamics. Even though his father was a successful producer, he did not jump into the family business right away. Argento started out as a film critic. When given a chance, he broke into directing with a film called Bird with the Crystal Plumage. He then went on to make Cat O’Nine Tails and Four Flies on Grey Velvet. All three thrillers composed the Animal Trilogy. They have nothing in common but the fact that some kind of animal is mentioned in the title and that they all have an Agatha Christy whodunit story. The murders are tame are so tame that Bird with the Crystal Plumage is rated PG.
Wanting to do something different, Argento made a movie called Le Cinque Giornate; a comedic western that poked fun of politics and the middle class. This film is as not yet available in the USA. It’s considered Argento’s lost film (all of his films are available uncut in special editions as of this post).
Argento then came back with his Agatha Christy-like style with a mystery called Deep Red and reveled in the giallo style. This time he brings something extra to the screen: graphic violence. What constitutes graphic violence is that the viewer is privy to it. The filmmaker does not pull away. We witness the penetration of a weapon into human flesh. The act of showing penetrating flesh is considered pornographic in this country (the USA); hence the porn industry and the fact that the USA cut up most of his films for distribution.
True, Argento is doing nothing new. Before him was Mario Bava and Hershall Gordon Lewis. But Argento raises it a notch by leveling the violence with art. Although he doesn’t make it pretty, he makes it downright horrible. He takes great pains into making the vicious beautiful on the screen.
But the revolutionary violence is not even what makes Deep Red so brilliant. Nor is the whodunit mystery. It’s the play on sexual politics that make Deep Red stand out to the viewer and even adds some humor to the film, but not in a campy or obvious way.
Deep Red is about an American Jazz pianist named Marc Daly who’s staying in Rome and teaching at the conservatory. One night, he witnesses the murder of a renowned psychic who accidentally reads the mind of a twisted killer. Marc doesn’t see the killer’s face, but he does witness something that he cannot place; something was added or taken away at the scene of the crime. With the help of a female reporter named Gianni, Marc searches for a killer and the one piece that he can’t remember.
Argento sets up Marc Daly as a sensitive, nervous, and articulate artist; these qualities are often ridiculed by the mainstream world. For example, when the police arrive at the psychic’s apartment, the investigating inspector questions Marc and asks what he does to earn a living. When Marc tells the inspector he teaches piano at the conservatory, the inspector laughs at him as if Marc doesn’t have a real job. Playing piano is not a real job in the eyes of the working class. It is something you do to relax or pass the time. Like writing poetry. Of course Marc takes offense and the inspector apologizes half-hearted.
Later in the film, Marc looks for his friend Carlo at his mother’s apartment. Marta, Carlo’s mother, cannot seem to grasp that Marc is a pianist; she keeps calling him an engineer. Marc grows frustrated with her.
At the end of the film (SPOILER ALERT) where we discover that Marta is the killer, the viewer might wonder if Marta’s misconception had an antagonistic intent. Like the cop, is she baiting and ridiculing Marc? It might be true. Marta’s son, Carlo, is also a pianist, one that plays to survive as apposed to Marc who plays for the love of it.
Although we never see Marta and Carlo together we can imagine that she might ridicule her son for playing the piano, for being an artist. Yet, Marta used to be an actress. Acting is an art. Art takes a certain level of sensitivity. Sensitivity is a female trait, not often related to men. Most art does not take great physical strength. Maybe that’s why art is usually associated with women.
So either she’s calculating mind attacks on her nemesis (which would make sense since she knows what it’s like to be an artist and she lives with a pianist) or she could be down right insane and holding onto the delusion that Marc is an engineer.
The key relationship that stresses Marc’s inferiority to the male sex is with reporter Gianna who has to be smart and aggressive. After all this was 1975 and women had to be independent and survive in a man’s world. And she does quite well.
She arrives at the scene of the psychic’s murder before any other reporter and pushes her way into the story. Gianna is so aggressive that she imposes a romantic relationship on Marc; which seems to be a very manly thing to do. She even has no qualms about having sex with him in such a sort period of time. Her excuse for such a move: to get rid of his nervousness. How many times has a man said sex would relieve a woman’s anxiety?
Argento even goes as far as to have Gianna save Marc not once, but twice from the killer. As a man shouldn’t he be saving himself? He doesn’t even save Gianna when the killer attacks her.
There are two beautiful moments that Argento uses to bring out the contrast of this relationship. Gianna’s car is one. It is a piece of crap. So much so that she’s not able to lock any of the doors, fearing that a mechanic has to open it, and that sometimes she has to get in and out through the sunroof. When Gianna starts driving Marc around in her car, his seat drops down a foot, making his head just barely looking over the dashboard. Visually, Argento defines the sexes.
Another moment is the arm wrestling scene. Gianna beats him, twice. Of course, having his masculinity wounded, Marc calls her a cheat. She continues to tease him about it, driving Marc to hit her below the belt: not letting her know when she can see him again. This is a classic move among women in noir stories, often leaving the men pushing the women for another meeting. In this case, Argento switches the sexes.
Argento not only uses dramatics, but also stark visuals to create this exploration of the sexes. Hence why Deep Red will always continue to stimulate the intellect as well as the baby gore hound inside.
M.E. Purfield is an urban contemporary and noir fantasy writer. You can find him at http://mepurfield.livejournal.com
I guess it’s kinda been a while since I’ve been around the scene saying or doing things – and I have my reasons – but I’m back on the frontlines, with a vengeance! Which brings me to the reason for my appearance on this website…
Good news everyone!
You may have read about my debut novel, apocalyptic-horror-thriller, PaxCorpus, here and, well, if you’ve read the book, it’s pretty obvious that Dante, Meryl, Rob and Ed aren’t done yet. (not by a longshot)
For the past couple of months I’ve been working on the sequel, titled Escape Velocity, which I hope to finish by either the end of the year or end of first quarter 2013 (the year everything goes to hell in PaxCorpus!). This continuation will stay true to the original story, along with its horror roots, but this one’s heavier – if you know what I mean – it’s more involved. There’s more at stake. There’s the horror side with the zombies and the monstrous alien bastards and then, of course, the terrorists, which continue to push the story more toward horror-science fiction.
With EV, they’re more than just terrorists, though. They’re a cell of anti-human, homicidal maniacs (okay, maybe that’s pretty much the same as Pax) but with their leader supposedly dead, the defected brother of Dante, Jack, now spearheads the movement from his “throne” smack-dab in the middle of the ZeroFactor fortress in Manhattan.
The tricky part is that this “fortress” is in extreme proximity to the Rift of Manhattan. More on that in the story itself.
With literally weeks left to survive, and after an attack on their shelter in Salem, New Jersey (with other Pax units around the world – what’s left of them – in the same situation, or worse…); Dante and Meryl have only one option left – strike at the heart of ZF and uncover their plans for continuity or risk absolute extinction.
As Dante would say, “This isn’t the road home. This is a road littered with questions that will inevitably lead to an answer.”
Aside from that, I’m also working on a slightly sarcastic short-story called, “Blue Blood,” dealing with day-zero survivors fighting off hordes of the undead, holed up in an Allmart in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. This sequence takes place around the same time frame of the original fall of Manhattan. (see: PaxCorpus)
To see the recently released book trailer for Escape Velocity, go here.
And for more information regarding my work, my hobbies, things I just like to talk about and to find more out about me (of course), visit www.paxcorpus.com.
Thanks for reading! Stay vigilant.
-Ryan S. Fortney
Winnie-the-Pooh and the Angle of Dath, by Dave Hughes
Description: A. A. Milne’s stories and poems about Winnie-the-Pooh became instant children’s classics. This parody, in the tradition of A. A. Milne, is not for children by any means.
After The House At Pooh Corner, it’s been four years since Christopher Robin went to school, and now Owl’s dead – murdered by an anonymous assassin who calls himself the Angel of Death (or more accurately, the spelling in the title) and promises more killings. That’s not all; the Angle brought a bloodthirsty pack of wolves to help him, and a demon-worshiping crow watches the chaos… and waits.
Rabbit races to find the killer and tries to shun his wretched past that caused his friends-and-relations to abandon him. Tigger tries to fend off the wolves and prove his strength. Kanga wants another child – with Tigger. Roo is an emotional teenage train wreck. Eeyore faces a huge change to his life and mental status. Piglet finds a bit too much solace from Owl’s old liquor cabinet. As for poor old Winnie-the-Pooh, all he wants is Christopher Robin to come back and make things right.
This unauthorized parody is by no means what Milne intended, but the style is the same, the charm is the same, and the structure is the same. The only thing that’s different is that religious fanaticism causes the Hundred-Acre Wood to lose its innocence… forever.
“I’m afraid the Hundred-Acre Wood can’t forgive you,” whispered the figure at Owl’s bedside, “so just hold still and cooperate for me.”
Owl snorted. He raised his head and creaked it over his pillow to face the ceiling rather than the window. His beak dragged a long thread of saliva across his dry feathers. When he leaned back again, an awkward plume of dust from his sheets and his scalp puffed into the masked face of the black-cloaked fellow in the cold moonlight of his newly built tree house.
“Um-” Owl began to speak, but his inside of his beak tasted like dried mud. He smacked his tongue up and down the short shell of a mouth in a rhythmic rattle until the whole inside was wet enough to talk with.
The visitor sat down on the nightstand, but sat up again when he realized it wasn’t a stool. The thing almost broke, which would have sent the piles upon piles of heavy books crashing down. In the brief shuffle he dropped his shotgun, but caught it just before a bump with the floor could make it misfire. Only two shots were inside, and if neither of them went into Owl’s skull, there would be trouble.
“Hallo there, good sir,” said Owl, his eyes still shut. “I do hope you realize this is an absolutely dreadful time to go visiting. Perhaps I must introduce you to the proper methods of visitation in modern etiquette, since you seem to not know a good time to-”
“Owl. This is serious. I need you to hold still.”
“Yes. It’s not very complicated, you just sort of keep your wings very stiff and-”
“I know how to hold still, you weird, whispering, um, whatever-it-is-you-are. What, dare I ask, is that whatever-it-is-you-are which you, in fact, are?”
The assassin said nothing.
“You could tell me, you know, when I dutifully ask as a resident of this tree house. It is your duty as a gentleman – that is, if you are a gentleman!” Owl couldn’t hold back a whooping chuckle.
“I can’t tell you who I am.”
“Are you perhaps the ghost of my great uncle Robert? Oh, how delightfully peculiar! Do tell me- did you figure out the meaning of life in your retreat to the Scottish Highlands after all?”
“Not him. I’m just, I can’t tell you. It’s secret information.”
“Why, do you not know? Have you forgotten in some existential artistic-aspiration bric-a-brac? That’s Roo’s department, go to Kanga’s house if you-”
“I can’t tell you, and that’s the end of it.”
Owl turned to his assassin and pointed at him with his left wing, yet he kept his eyes shut. “Well, then, if you can’t tell me who you are, why do you come?”
“I must carry out my duties.”
“I see. Then carry them out elsewhere, because another animal’s residence is not-”
“Please be quiet.”
“Me, be quiet? I’m the one trying to sleep, in my own household! You are so atypically silly for a visitor; you need my instruction more than ever. I mean, first you come at night -which is clearly the time all sophisticated owls go to bed, despite popular ideology against the idea you may have heard- then you insist that I hold still for some reason, then you won’t tell me your identity, and to top it all off, you put this downright freezing metal implement next to my eye, pressing it a bit harder than I would like, and-”
He opened his left eye. There was metal jammed against his head. It was a double-barreled shotgun, held by a masked figure in a black cloak.
“I- well, I never!” he said with a trembling scoff.
As the intruder whipped his hand next to the trigger, Owl rolled out of bed and sprung to his feet. The skin of his feet caught the oak floorboards and his claws dug into the cracks between the splinters.
Owl pointed his wing at the invader like his logic was more potent of ammunition than anything a gun could possess, which of course it wasn’t. “You, whoever you are, burglar, you should know better than to-”
With a sudden flopping and flapping of linen, Owl could see only black. The burglar put a pillowcase over his head. Owl could have lifted one of his legs to pull it off, but there was no time. The intruder could be anywhere with his gun, ready to kill Owl before he even had a chance to finish his personal memoirs about his religious pilgrimage to the London Zoo.
The one thing that was for certain to Owl, even in complete darkness, was the location of his weapon.
The burglar watched as the bird fumbled around with his feet along the bottom of the bed. He could have killed that old self-appointed scholar right there if not for how much his trigger hand quaked at the notion.
One swiping shink of bed-frame iron against the Queen’s steel, and the blinded bird stood on his left foot with a rusted saber pointed towards the ceiling held in the right. The wide side of the blade whipped in his own face as he flung it to his fighting stance, but he had bigger worries.
The assassin decided that if he couldn’t bring himself to do the deed normally then he would just have to try it the old-fashioned way. He grabbed a steak knife from the table next to Owl’s stove.
“I will have you know, you foul-minded brigand,” said Owl, “that I am a six-year veteran of the Royal Avian Armed Forces. To confront me would be an absolute waste of a young man’s life. This masterfully tempered length of steel ended the foul existence of several bird-brained villains on the Eastern Front, and it will end yours as well! I could take the trenches, and I could therefore take any lower-class derelict in my-”
A sharp pain swept across Owl’s chest. He spat out a startled hoot. He could feel warm wetness trickle down his feathers. Blood.
Before Owl could riposte, a shelf full of his old plates and glassware was knocked over and it pinned him to the ground. The Tree House began to buckle from the shock in little thumps underfoot. He crawled out from under the heavy weight on his back, but several more minor swipes of the knife were made into his flesh.
He scrambled with the claws of his free foot onto any higher ground he could find until he ran into the painted blue wall above his bed. He tried to bash through the wall and discovered it was not the window. When he did go out the window, he broke the glass and the window frame in one hard splash and saturated his body with even more unskilled cuts.
Owl left trails of blood in the air as he plummeted to the ground. He could feel the cold wind flush around him and the red fluids sucked from his veins. The pain was intense to the point where could only unfurl his bleeding wings just before he would have hit the cold midnight grass.
He broke his fall with a few strained flaps of his wings and landed gently. He could hear the footsteps of at least three other creatures on the ground.
“Tigger, is that you?” said Owl. “As you can probably tell I can’t see anything with this blasted pillowcase on my—“
“I’m not Tigger, bird.” The voice was low and rasping, unlike that of either the intruder or anyone else of the Hundred-Acre Wood.
“Oh. Well, whomever you are, would you be so kind as to go get help, being that there is a crazed murderer after me?”
“You be quiet, bird. We’ll hold you still. Our friend here shoots you.”
Two more feet planted on the ground, having descended from Owl’s tree house.
Owl realized his sword was still fixed in the grip of his right foot. He whipped it in the direction of the new voice. “Do not come any closer, or I swear I’ll slash you to ribbons!” said Owl.
The weapon was then gripped by the blade end and yanked from his grasp. The shotgun was once again held against his heart.
Owl could feel his pulse nudge the steel up and down.
Owl let out a shriek, then lunged at the killer and kicked him to the ground. His old talons could only penetrate the cloak and not the skin of whoever this was. Owl stomped in the vagabond’s face and tried to fly upwards. The killer snatched Owl’s foot and pulled him down. Owl’s wings flung up and down in a panicked daze as the other thugs chuckled in anticipation.
Owl felt a heavy foot on his chest. He was slammed to the ground with his back on the wet grass. Owl was drenched in his own blood, and it made him cold as the October breeze swept over the fluids and dried them.
“Now, hold still, Owl,” said the assassin.
“I will not hold still!” said Owl. He pointed his wing at the killer, but the thugs grabbed his wings and held them down, spread out on the ground. “As long as there is one breath in my body, I still have some kind of work to do. And I will continue to find a way out of this situation as I—“
Owl’s sword was plunged into his shoulder, nailing him to the floor of the forest. He choked on blood as it backed up in his throat.
“I will— I am— good sir, I will die a gentleman’s death! I am a hero of the Great War, and I swear to you my name will go down in history as—“
The gun was shoved against his throat, under the fabric of the pillowcase.
“Oh God, please, think about what you’re doing, I don’t want to—!”
The shot in the left barrel was fired. With the first big “boom” in the wood’s populated history, the inside of Owl’s head painted the grass next to it crimson.
The group stood and watched as the scattered blood carved rivers in the soil.
Winnie-the-Pooh and the Angle of Dath, by Dave Hughes