Deep Dark Cover Art – The Hecatomb

Hecatomb – ‘heka’tom/ (noun) – An extensive loss of life for some cause.

or…

The name of my terrifying novella.

Now with all new cover art.

And yes…those are real bones…

Hecatomb front cover hi rez

In a drowned village, on a dark shore, in a city of white stones, an ancient evil stalks.
It has no name, no face, and no desire but to see the death of everything…
…and everyone.
Down through the ages it exists, sleepless and void, a relic from the world before humanity.
One dead. Every night. Forever.
Until nothing remains.

J Edward Neill

The Skeleton Sculptor

Please enjoy my free short story, The Skeleton Sculptor.

…in its entirety.

The Skeleton Sculptor is one of four short stories appearing in the novella The Hecatomb, which can be purchased here.

*

* * *

The Skeleton Sculptor

 J Edward Neill

*

On the morning the hunt began, we’d had a hundred men.

After three months, we were down to eleven.

We all knew how it would end.

But only a few got to see it.

My name is Costas. Those who knew me would’ve said I listened more than I talked. They’d have been right, of course. I was always a watcher more than a doer. I’d grown up in the Master’s service, in a mountain city graven of pale stone. In the Master’s Citadel, we had towers taller than anywhere else in the known world. We had women more beautiful than the sun, moon, and stars. Why talk, I thought, when surrounded by such glory?

And so I watched. And listened. And learned.

It was a perfect place, my home. I loved it.

And if I weren’t dead, I’d return there and never leave again.

* * *

Most of what I remember of our ninetieth night out was that my feet hurt. I sat beneath the full red moon, the campfire snapping at my toes, and I rubbed my soles until my fingers went numb.

For a short while, I didn’t care about all the men who’d gone missing.

I didn’t care about the Master’s orders.

All that mattered was that my sandals were off, my armor was loose on my shoulders, and my belly was full of stew. After all, there weren’t many of us left to eat the food we’d started with. There seemed no sense in dying hungry.

“It’s ten days home,” a soldier murmured across the dying campfire. “Which means if we leave tomorrow, one of us will survive.”

I looked at the other men. Five of us were hunkered in the scrub. We were sulking by the fire, our gazes inky in the night. The other six were asleep in two tents atop a nearby hill. I could see the lights of their fires dying the same as ours. The flames were red, just like the moon.

There was no wind that night. Only the scarlet light on the silent earth.

“So,” Aios grumped on the fire’s far side, “the one who makes it back home…he gets to die on the Master’s gallows ‘stead of out here in the grass.”

I listened while the argument began.

“We don’t know the others are dead,” Nikolas grunted. “Could be they’re hiding. Could be they’re lost in the hills somewhere.”

Nikolas wasn’t wrong, not exactly. We’d never actually found any of the bodies. But Aios knew better. So did I. Not that I said anything.

“As likely missing as swimming on the moon.” Aios glanced skyward. “They’re all dead and you know it.”

Philok, biggest of our cadre, rolled his massive shoulders. Tanned to gold by the sun, still packed into his hard leather hauberk, he was the only one of us who still looked fierce.

If any of us survive, I thought, it’ll be him.

“I want it to come,” Philok rumbled. “Let it skulk out of the darkness. I’ve a spear for it. There’ll be no more of our bones. Only its.”

It was wishful thinking, and we all knew it. Aios shook his head. Nikolas just looked afraid. Leuk peered over the fire, moonlight in his eyes, and went back to eating from his wooden bowl. He never talked, our Leuk. He was even quieter than me.

“Spears don’t kill ghosts,” murmured Aios.

“Mine might.” Philok glared.

Our huge friend had a point. His spear, a man and a half tall, leaned on a boulder near the fire. Its haft was as thick as most men’s forearms, its tip catching the moonlight just so. I’d seen Phi skewer a boar with it once. It’d split the poor, squealing thing in two.

But our quarry wasn’t a boar. It didn’t squeal. It didn’t die.

All it did was take the living away. And never bring them back.

The men argued more. They’d done the same every night for weeks. But by now no one bothered to get truly angry. We all figured if we started killing each other, it’d only make our quarry’s work easier.

Easy enough for the Ghoul already, I thought.

I rubbed my feet one last time and went to sleep.

 

* * *

It had started ages ago, this problem of ours.

It’d begun before I’d been born. Before the Master’s great-grandfather had been born.

Before any of us.

Back then, before the Citadel, before all the pale stone cities had sprung up along the coast, it had been a better world. At least, that’s the yarn our elders spun around the hearths at night. And so that’s the tale we believed.

A fine, quiet realm,’ they used to say. ‘Green pastures, hillocks teeming with olive trees, golden sun shining on endless vineyards.’

And no Ghoul.’

I’d never cared about the stories. Not as a boy, anyhow. In the Citadel, home of the Master, there’d never been any ghosts. The clap of hard sandals on marble streets had been our music, not the howls of mothers who’d lost their sons or or husbands whose wives had never come home. The stories we cared about had been of wars fought and won, of islands conquered, and of white-sand shores. We dreamed of golden coins in our pockets and raven beauties that would one day be ours if we served with honor in the Master’s guard.

We’d known nothing about the Ghoul.

And our lives had been better for it.

* * *

In the morning we woke to shouts again.

“It’s Saulos!” I heard Nikolas scream. “How? He slept in his armor! He’s gone, but his breastplate’s still here!”

“Where were you?” one of the hill-camp soldiers cursed another. “You were on watch! You were supposed to be guarding us!”

“I was on guard! I—”

Amid their shouts, I clawed away sleep’s last cobwebs and sat up beneath the dawning sun. It was hot already, and I was tired despite having slept so well. To defend against the Ghoul’s nightly visits, the others had taken to sleeping for only an hour or two at a time, if at all. Not me. I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to be awake when death came for me, and so I’d almost always slept full nights…and weathered my nightmares alone.

I shambled up the hill. My sword pattered against my outer thigh, and the straps of my armor dangled without care. A year ago, I’d been a fresh recruit in the Master’s service, a newly-minted member of his honored guard.

And now what am I?

Dead.

I came to Saulos’ empty tent. It was just as the others had shouted. There lay his armor, all red leather and polished steel. Saulos had been a captain. His armor was better than ours, or at least prettier. It didn’t much matter. It lay on the ground, almost untouched. It looked like someone had snipped the straps off and carried him away while he was sleeping. There wasn’t even any blood.

As I stood there, the others fell into their ritual panic. Some muttered prayers. Others shouted that we should return to the Citadel at once. Both cries were familiar. Neither really mattered.

One of us alive is better than nothing!” cried a soldier whose name I hadn’t bothered to learn.

“The hell it is!” argued Aios. “You think the Master will understand when one man marches up and explains ninety-nine of his brothers are dead? He’ll smile, name the survivor a deserter, and hang his body over the cliffs for the gulls to laugh at.”

Aios was right. If there was one truly hard thing about life in the Citadel, it was the Master’s law. He didn’t suffer failure, not from his fabled soldiers. If our hundred never came home, it wouldn’t matter. He’d have a feast, sacrifice a few bulls, and send out two-hundred more men.

Though somehow I knew the result would be the same.

The men argued. It got vicious. Someone cursed the Master’s name. Someone else shoved Nikolas in the dirt. Philok shook his spear, and everyone finally fell silent.

I don’t know why I stopped watching and started talking.

Might’ve ended better had I not.

“There’s one place we haven’t looked,” I chimed in.

“Where? What place?” grunted Philok.

“The lighthouse. It’s only a day south.”

“Why there?” spat Aios. “It’s just one cripple in a rotten tower. He’s probably a hundred days dead. Besides, the lighthouse doesn’t work. Doesn’t need to. Ships don’t use that route anymore. They come up the river.”

“He’s right.” Nikolas stood and dusted off his armor. “We’re trying to help the villagers, not some lonely old cod stuck in a tower.”

They were right, of course. We’d not help anyone by marching down to the sea and visiting one old man in his tower. The lighthouse keeper didn’t even have a family. Never had, not that we knew of. Even if he was still alive, we’d not do the countryside any favors by rescuing him.

But that wasn’t my point. Maybe it should’ve been, but it wasn’t.

“Nikolas, you still have the map?” I blurted.

“Aye,” he said.

“Well. Fetch it.”

He did. In moments he marched down the hill and back up. The others stared at me like I’d just slapped the sun out of the sky. Wouldn’t have been the worst thing, considering how hot it was.

Nikolas brought me the map. It was big, the Master’s chart, and I unfurled it on the hillside while several others knelt beside me.

“There.” I pointed to a village by the sea. Veni, jewel of the south, sat on a beautiful beach right in the map’s center. It was a new city, paid for by the Master’s coin. We’d been there a month prior. None of us had wanted to leave. Until the villagers had made us.

“So it’s Veni. What about it?” said Aios.

I dragged my finger eastward along the map. I stopped at a nameless black ink-blot. It was the lighthouse. I tapped it twice.

“We’ve been to every other village, tower, and crumbling old fort along the sea. But not the lighthouse. Not there.”

No one could disagree with that. We’d marched to dozens of hamlets, fisherman’s wharves, and sad little huts along the coast. All of them had lost people over the years. By the dates they’d given us, we’d figured it out. One person had gone missing every night. Just one, never more, never fewer.

For hundreds of years.

And we’d only just now worked up the courage to try to stop it.

“The lighthouse,” I said, “it’s right in the middle of it all.”

I traced a circle with my finger. All the places that had lost people, all of them, lay within it. And in the circle’s center sat the lighthouse.

The men stared for several moments. I figured Aios would be the first to argue. He was, after all, the smartest of us. If anyone ever forgot it, he was always sure to remind them.

“Now just you wait.” Aios didn’t disappoint. “The Master knew about the lighthouse. He sent men last year to scour the old tower up and down. They didn’t find a thing.”

“Aye,” agreed Philok. “I remember. That’s what started this whole mess. While our soldiers were in the lighthouse, people were disappearing in cities three and four days away. That’s when the Master decided to start the hunt.”

I closed my eyes. I knew what I wanted to say, just not how to say it.

“What if the Ghoul doesn’t come home every night?” I finally exhaled.

“So it goes out on rounds?” Aios let out a morbid laugh.

“Maybe so,” I countered. “But it still has to have a lair, right? A place to retreat? What if it’s the lighthouse?”

“Nice theory, but after all these years the lighthouse would be stuffed with bones a thousand men high,” said Aios. “The Master’s men would’ve noticed, I think.”

“Or they’d have found the bodies along the way,” murmured Nikolas.

And they’ve never found any of the missing, I thought.

They’re right. I’m stupid to bring it up.

But wait. There was something else I wanted to say.

Maybe it’d been a dream. Maybe something else. If the morning hadn’t been so damnably hot, chances are my brain wouldn’t have cooked and I’d have never remembered it.

What was it I’d thought of?

Was it a nightmare I’d had?

A memory of my childhood?

“I think I was born out here,” I said.

“What?” Aios made a face.

Several of the other soldiers stood and left. I knew what they thought. They thought I was a fool wasting their time. I didn’t blame them. I heard them talk about fleeing home to the Citadel. They didn’t want anything to do with the map or hunting the Ghoul. They wanted to be home in their beds.

But Aios, Philok, Leuk, and Nikolas remained.

“I was born out here,” I continued. “Not in Veni. But close. It was near the sea. I remember my mother. I think I do, anyway. And I remember the rocks. And the lighthouse.”

“No you don’t,” spat Aios. “You were born in the Citadel, same as us. It’s just another of your dreams.”

“What if—” I started.

“I wasn’t born in the Citadel either.” Philok came to my rescue. “I’m from the mountains. My father was dying, so they brought me down to the Master’s fortress. My family figured I’d never have a life unless I served in the guard.”

Aios looked stunned. I nodded at Philok, grateful.

“I remember walking on the shore.” I stared off into the sky. “My mother sent me off to play while she worked. At least, I think she did. One day, I wandered near the lighthouse. I remember it. It was above me. Way above. And I remember seeing something in the cliffs beneath it. Was it holes? Breaks? Cracks in the rock?”

“Holes?” Aios shook his head.

“I think he means caves,” said Nikolas.

I looked at the three of them. They’d been my brothers for the last year. They knew I didn’t talk much, but when I did, I meant what I said.

“That’s right.” My eyes were wide. “Caves.”

It hadn’t been a dream.

I’d just remembered a part of my childhood.

And my mother, who’d I been made to forget.

* * *

Clouds gathered over the sea. Greys and blues smoldered in the sky, darker than the water. The hour was only late afternoon, yet the world looked ready for twilight.

We were terrified.

We’d every right to be.

The five of us mounted a last hill and caught sight of the distant lighthouse. It was an old, old thing, its stones bleached skeleton-white. It’d been built long before the Master’s time, long before any of us. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of the Ghoul’s prey the lighthouse had watched vanish.

One every night.

Hundreds of years.

I couldn’t make the numbers work in my head.

We’d walked all day. Ever since we’d split up from the other soldiers, I hadn’t said a thing. Phi, Aios, Nikolas, and Leuk had decided to join me. The others had chosen to go back to the Citadel and face the Master’s wrath.

Our group hadn’t lost anyone last night.

And so we all knew what had happened.

“I hope it took Diok,” chuffed Aios as we walked down the hill and into the fields between us and the lighthouse. “Never liked that prick.”

Nikolas sighed, “Maybe it’ll follow them instead of us. That’ll give us what…three more days?”

“Maybe.” Philok’s knuckles were white around his spear. “But what if there’s more than one Ghoul?”

None of us had ever thought of that before.

We shivered the notion away and kept walking.

The five of us drew nearer the lighthouse. Switches of dry grass skirled at our waists, dancing wildly in the wind. My feet hurt again. My ankles, too. The grass had nicked me in a hundred little places. If the Ghoul didn’t kill me, I half-believed the fields might drown me.

At least it’s not hot anymore.

By the time we came to the cliff, upon which the lighthouse stood tall and formidable, the rain began. The wind hit us and the storm’s droplets beaded on our sunburned skin. I looked my companions over. To a man, we savored standing in the rain. It was an island of peace in a world of despair.

“Are we going in?” Nikolas nodded.

“The lighthouse?” Aios smirked. “Why should we? We know what’s in there. Nothing.”

“Might be wise to weather the storm in there,” Philok held his huge palm open to catch the rain.

Aios looked annoyed. But then again, he always did.

“Fine.”

I knocked at the lighthouse door. The oak plank must’ve been two-hundred years old. It felt soft as soap beneath my knuckles. I rapped it ten times before Philok pushed me aside and kicked the thing in. I’d hoped the old man would answer. But the moment Nikolas fired a torch and walked into the great round room beyond the door, we knew the lighthouse had gone untended for months.

“Think he died all alone in here? Somewhere up there near the top?” Aios’s voice echoed in the void.

“Maybe the Ghoul got him,” said Philok.

“Why would it bother?” Aios cracked. “Old man was damn near a hundred. Pointless to kill what’s already dead.”

Except the Ghoul doesn’t care, I almost said. He takes children. Pregnant women. Venerable old men.

And soldiers.

We used pieces of the broken door to light a fire. With it blazing, we peeled off our armor and hunkered down in the shadows. The rain shattered the world beyond the lighthouse walls, harder than anything I’d ever heard. It didn’t feel natural. Bitter breezes flew into the windows, and stray drops of water swirled into the room, stinging our shoulders. No matter where I sat, the rain found me. I finally settled on the spot farthest from the fire. Leuk, stoic and silent, shook his wet hair when he sat down beside me.

“Maybe you were right.” Aios smirked at me while cooking up a pot of stew. “This place is creepy. I hate it. That old man’s body is probably up those stairs. The Ghoul’s probably waitin’ for us.”

“How do you suppose we kill it? I mean really, really kill it,” asked Nikolas.

“The Ghoul?” Philok rubbed his forehead.

“No, the fucking rain,” quipped Aios. “Of course he means the Ghoul.”

Philok didn’t flinch. “This spear.” He flicked the blade of his man-and-a-half tall weapon. “Or Costas’ sword. Or Leuk’s daggers. Doesn’t matter. Everything dies.”

“Does it?” Nikolas looked afraid again. “It’s been a few hundred years, right? It should’ve been dead by now. What if it can’t die? What if it’s…forever?”

Philok thought about it for a moment, and then huffed. “There’s probably no such thing as the Ghoul. It’s probably a family of murderers. Might be they’ve passed down the family secret over the generations. Fathers teaching sons…hell…mothers teaching daughters. ‘Here’s how best to kill a man, lassie,’ they tell the little ones. ‘A drug in his wine to make him sleep, then a knife between his ribs. No one’ll be the wiser. Not even the Master.’”

No one laughed except Aios.

I might’ve known.

We set up a watch. I went first, else I’d never have woken for second shift. The rain raged as I tightened my armor and laid my sword atop my thighs. I probably should’ve been afraid. As it turned out, I’d little energy left for fear.

I didn’t remember falling asleep that eve. I suffered no dreams, no nightmares. One moment I was sitting beside the fire, the mist collecting on my shoulders.

And when I woke, Nikolas was gone.

The others were still dozing. It’d been Aios’s turn to watch, but he was curled up beside the long-dead fire, looking little different than a sleeping boy. Dawn’s first glow crept into the high windows. In a pool of soft light lay Nikolas’s armor, his blanket, and his bowl.

And his sword, still in its scabbard.

If I shout, it’ll go like it always does, I thought.

I’ll be quiet. 

I knelt beside the patch of stone Nikolas had slept on. He’d lain there for some time, it appeared. The mist had gathered all around him, but his blanket was dry. I touched the brittle fabric, and in the cold light examined it.

No blood.

Not torn.

Almost like he left willingly.

And then there was his armor. The straps were sliced clean through, the same as scissors through twine. Looking at the hunk of leather and steel, I wasn’t sure why we even bothered with armor anymore. The Ghoul wasn’t afraid of it.

The Ghoul wasn’t afraid of anything.

I looked at my hand. My knuckles were bloodless. I realized I was squeezing my sword.

For all the good our weapons do.

I woke Philok first. He came to with a jolt, seizing my throat in his massive hand.

“Phi—” I coughed.

He let go of me. As I knelt there gasping, something in my eyes gave the truth away.

“Who’s gone?” he rumbled.

“Niko.” I sagged.

“No blood? No one heard him?”

“Nothing.” I rubbed my neck. “It’s morning now. He’s only been missing for a little while.”

We woke the others. For once, there was no panic. Leuk said nothing. He looked stoic as ever, no different than if he’d slept in his bunk at the Citadel. Frowning, Aios kicked at Nikolas’s things and glared at the rest of us, but kept his curses beneath his breath. This was what it had come to. We were dying one by one, and we hardly even minded anymore.

After a time, Philok dropped a helmet on his head, shouldered his spear, and marched to the bottom of the stairs that led to the lighthouse’s top. The weathered stone stairwell twisted up through a gaping hole in the ceiling. No sunlight spilled down from above. The inky darkness of the lighthouse’s hollow heart oozed down onto Philok’s face.

“I’m going up there,” he grunted.

I expected an argument. But Aios plucked up Niko’s sword, unsheathed his own, and nodded at Philok with both blades in hand. “I’m coming with you,” he said.

Leuk and I had no other choice.

With Philok in front and Leuk in the rear, the four of us stalked up the stairs. We emerged into the void above the room we’d slept in, and we saw slender shafts of light carving pallid lines into the darkness. The windows on the lighthouse’s sides were shuttered. The climb to the tower top would be done mostly in shadow.

Step by step, we marched. The lighthouse felt a thousand steps high. The musty air filled our lungs, while plumes of dust from our footfalls floated the same as stars at midnight. We wound our way up through the cold emptiness, at last arriving at the door to the lighthouse’s top. None of us knew what to expect. I held my sword with no more confidence than when I’d first set foot in the Master’s training garden.

“If anything’s on the other side,” Phi whispered, “kill it. Don’t stop cutting until your blades are down to nubs.”

We all nodded. Aios cracked a wicked smirk. Philok shouldered the door with all his might, breaking the door to pieces.

The sunlight poured over us.

We invaded the lighthouse’s top room. We were an army, the four of us, a cloud of fear and steel. Philok roared when he went in, and Aios growled. Leuk and I didn’t make a sound, but we were ready. Our blades were as sharp as any in the world. And they should’ve been, for we’d never used them.

But there was nothing in the room.

No caretaker.

No bodies.

No sea of bones or carpet of skin.

Philok looked disappointed. Halting in the sunlight, he rapped the butt of his spear on the floor and glared at everything. As for me, I couldn’t help but be relieved. I let my sword sag and my shoulders droop. After all, the sunlight in the tower’s top was warm and soothing. It swam over me, gliding in from each of thirty windows, sparkling on the giant glass lens in the room’s center.

I figured it was the last time I’d ever feel warm.

No. I didn’t figure. I knew.

“It wasn’t ever up here,” cursed Aios. “We’re idiots.”

“We still had to check,” argued Philok.

“Yes…well.” Aios shook his head. “We checked. And nothing. So now what?”

“Costas’s caves,” said Philok.

I could tell Aios had expected Phi to say it. “No. Not yet,” he grumbled. “Breakfast first.”

Too soon, we abandoned the warmth of the lighthouse’s top. I felt sad to leave so quickly. Halfway down into the dark, I realized I’d never even taken the chance to look out across the sea.

At the bottom, Aios prepared breakfast for us. It was hard tack and fried cakes softened with hot water, same as most mornings. It didn’t much matter. Cooking had always calmed Aios, so we never complained.

With only a rotten beam of lighthouse timber to burn, Aios’ kindling of choice that morn was Nikolas’s satchel. Nikolas didn’t need it, after all. But just as Aios snared the leather bag and began cutting it to shreds with his knife, I stopped him.

“Wait,” I said, “Something’s in there.”

Aios made a face. “It’s just a book. Tear out the pages. It’ll save us from sending Leuk out to collect things to burn.”

“No…” I grabbed the bag and pulled the book out. “Just use the satchel. Let me keep this. I want to see what Niko wrote.”

Aios squeezed his eyes shut. He looked like he wanted to kill me. “Fine,” he muttered. “But remember; the dead can’t read.”

While Aios cooked and Philok rummaged through the rest of Niko’s things, I sat in a pool of sunlight and cracked the book open. It was well-made, a far finer thing than Nikolas had any right to possess. I couldn’t believe that with all my hours of watching, I’d never seen him with it. And then, when Philok grunted that he’d found a quill and a vial of ink, it hit me. I understood.

Nikolas had been keeping a journal.

The book has the Master’s mark on it.

Niko had always been a lazy soldier.

But he’d learned to write far sooner than the rest of us.

The rest of the world fell away, and soon it was just me and the journal. I read dozens of entries. Nikolas had done his work well. He’d catalogued how much food we’d had, our movements beyond the Citadel, the people we’d questioned, and the names and ranks of the soldiers that had vanished. He’d even written the dates they’d gone missing.

I skimmed across as much as I could. Most of it was trivial, but the deeper I read, the more I saw of Niko’s personal comments.

And the more I was filled with dread.

He’d written things like:

One soldier from Camp B gone in the night. Left his armor and sword. No blood. Same night: A man from Camp C swore he saw a shadow moving. The camps: an hour apart.

 Rained hard last eve. Saulos’s tent-mate was taken. Grigora says he found tracks in the mud. Not one set, but two. Not sandal prints. Bare feet.

 Another gone last night. Bibi – Captain, 1st Company. But Camp D, upon returning from the city, says that Veni lost someone that same eve. It’s always been one a night. But maybe this was more.

Does it mean two Ghouls?

 Occurred to me that we should look beyond our borders. Ask if others have vanished on the same dates. I know we can’t – they’re our enemies in the North and West, but still.

More than two Ghouls?

 Why is it hunting only soldiers now?

 Does it know we’re coming?

 Will it stop?

 

I closed the cover. I couldn’t read any more. Aios dropped a wooden bowl in my lap and snorted. “Boring read?” he chuffed. “Books are for scholars, Cos. Now give it over. We’ll use it to make a fire for tonight’s dinner.”

“No.” I pushed his hand away. “I’m going to finish it.”

“Finish it?”

“Yes. Reading it. And writing it.”

“Why? You’ll be dead soon.”

“I know, but—”

“Fine. Keep the damn thing. Whatever helps you die better.”

I ate in silence. I say silence even though Aios talked the entire time. He rambled about how our lives had become meaningless, how our deaths wouldn’t matter because we had no children, no lands, and no possessions beyond our weapons and armor. Maybe it was true. Maybe we were dead men no matter what we did. But when he said meaningless, it didn’t sit right with me. Whether the Ghoul killed us for sport or the Master hung us for being failures, it seemed wrong to just let it happen.

I have to make it meaningful, I thought.

The journal. I’ll finish it.

Maybe someone will find it.

After breakfast, a deep quiet overtook the four of us. There was no fleeing for the Citadel now, we knew. Unless the Ghoul abandoned his hunt, we’d all be dead within eight days. And so we sat there for a time, sharpening our swords needlessly. I like to think we dwelled on the purpose of our lives, the good things we’d seen, and all the glory we’d hoped for.

But I knew better.

Philok dreams of destroying the Ghoul. Of being heroic.

Aios dreams of how he’d have done it if he were the Master.

Leuk dreams of the life he wanted. Of what might’ve been had he finished his twenty years of service.

And what do I dream of?

Death.

And then it ended. Philok stood, spear in hand, and looked at us. We didn’t say anything to him. We gathered our swords, strapped on our armor, and doused the fire. In a short, ragged line, we trailed Phi out into the sunlight.

And for all the glamour of the great blue sky, we felt the shadow upon us.

We left the lighthouse and walked to the cliff’s edge. As the tower fell behind us, I looked over my shoulder at it. The edifice was white as death. Its sides were smooth and ashen, its outer walls seamless. The old thing looked like it had sprouted right out of the cliffs. I was glad to be rid of it. I don’t know why, but I promised myself I’d write about it in Niko’s journal.

“Costas.” Aios’ voice pulled me out my daydream. “Wake the hell up. We can’t get down from here. See?”

I gazed over the cliffs and onto the dark ocean. The water boiled over the shore far below, the waves black and foaming. I imagined if one of us fell over the edge, we could’ve counted to ten before we hit the rocks. Aios was right. From our vantage, there was no way to reach the shore.

Or the caves. 

“We’ll have to go—” I began.

“To Veni,” Philok grunted.

In hindsight, I should’ve suggested we find another way down. A quicker way.

But Veni it was.

We marched.

And marched.

And marched.

That eve, tired and sweating, we descended out of the cliffs. Veni lay before us, sprawling and fresh beneath the violet sunset. It wasn’t a big city, but it was still beautiful at twilight. Strands of hanging lamps lit its rooftops the same as the stars. The waves were too rough for sailing, but I could see the masts stark against the sky, and I could hear the people’s laughter. I envied them. But I knew as soon as we soldiers were gone, the Ghoul would go back to hunting at random.

Some from the countryside.

And some from Veni.

“We shouldn’t go in there,” I said to the others.

“Why not?” Aios stared at me.

“We’re bad luck. We’re hunted men. Veni knows us. Even if they don’t kick us out, we’ll not be welcome.”

“The Master’s soldiers can’t be refused,” Aios argued. “If they deny us, it’s under pain of death.”

I looked down at the dirt path leading into the city. Sandy scrub and lonely trees pocked the twilit way. The sky was cloudless; no rain threatened us. There were a thousand places we could camp if we liked.

“I just don’t think we should,” I said. “The city can’t protect us. No one can.”

Aios looked ready to split me in half. “Fine. We’ll stay the night out here,” he said. “In the sand. In the dirt. If the Ghoul comes, you’re first.”

I almost hoped so. Not because I wanted to die. But because I wanted to know.

Beneath the endless stars, we made our silent camp. No one from Veni noticed us. Or if they did, they didn’t care. I’d rarely seen a night sky so bright as that eve. A million white pinpricks in a perfect black sheet, it seemed. Leuk and I stared at it for a long, long while.

By the dying campfire, I wrote my first words in Niko’s journal:

We make for caves east of Veni. Four of us left: Costas, Philok, Leuk, and Aios.

 We don’t hope to find anything. We’re going anyway. If nothing’s there, it’s my (Costas’) fault. I convinced them to do this by a feeling in my gut.

 And there’s something else.

I think the lighthouse is made of bones.

I closed the journal. I needed to focus. We’d agreed to do a double watch: Leuk and I first, then Phi and Aios.

I worried I’d fall asleep.

But it was Aios who drifted off during his watch.

And Philok who went missing.

I woke with Aios’ boot in my ribs. It hurt. I squinted into the early sunlight and saw him standing over me. He scowled, Phi’s spear shaking in his grasp. He’s gone mad, I thought. He’s going to save the Ghoul some trouble and run me through. But he didn’t. He just glowered and spat in the sand.

“Get up,” he said.

I complied.

“The caves. Take us now. Let’s finish this.”

“But—”

“It’s fine if nothing’s there. I won’t blame you. I might kill you, but I won’t blame you.”

We didn’t eat breakfast. We didn’t mourn Philok. Walking ahead of Aios and his spear, Leuk and I led the way down to the shore. At the ocean, a lone child saw us marching. He stood in the foamy shallows, throwing rocks into the water. He smiled at us, watching us long enough to see us pass into the shadow of a stark and terrible cliff. I thought it strange to see the boy all alone. He reminded me of myself, of all the mornings I must’ve spent doing the same as he.

We walked into the shadows. And he was gone.

“I dreamed last night,” I said as I walked on the narrow strip of sand between the ocean and the cliff.

“No one cares,” answered Aios.

“I heard a woman laughing.” I ignored him. “She whispered something in my ear. She had dark hair. She was beautiful. I didn’t want to wake up, even with you kicking me.”

“A shame you’ll never meet her,” he mocked.

Maybe I will, I wanted to say.

We marched. Was it for many hours? Or much less? I couldn’t have said. The ocean crashed against the rocks and swirled at our knees, drowning out all the world’s sounds. Guarded by the mighty cliff, the sunlight never quite reached us. But the shadows and the cold couldn’t slow me. I slogged on, convinced I was going to my doom, certain I still had some part to play.

This is what madness feels like, I thought. All these years of not much talking, and now the loudest voice is in my head.

And then we came to it, a great dark hole in the cliff wall. The ocean roared in and out of it, and the rocks like teeth crowned its top and sides. Twenty men standing side-by-side could’ve marched into the cavern’s mouth.

And all of them would be eaten.

“Fucking lovely.” Aios marched past me. He still had Phi’s spear in his grasp, and he was wet up to his chest in seawater. The salt stuck to him, and us, in powdery white patches. We were miserable. We hadn’t eaten all day.

“Got a lantern?” he spat at Leuk. Leuk shook his head.

“Torches,” I murmured. “Just three.”

“We’ve got some daylight left.” Aios pointed Phi’s spear into the darkness. “Let’s go kill this thing. Just think…we’ll be heroes.”

I fired a torch, and in we went.

We were fifty steps deep when I realized what we’d gotten ourselves into. The ocean’s rush faded at our backs, and the absence of light swallowed us. I squinted in the dark and saw other tunnels, black branches trailing into the underworld. I remembered a story someone had once told me about such places, and why no one should ever go into them.

“Four different tunnels.” Aios saw them, too. “Wonder how deep they go.”

I wished Philok had still been alive. He’d have known which tunnel to choose.

“That one’s half underwater.” Aios nodded at the farthest tunnel. The black hole gazed back at us, smiling as if aware of our fear.

“So we’re going into this one.” Aios pointed his spear at the nearest cave. It sat above us, its archway crusted in ancient limestone. A pile of broken shells sat beneath its mouth, deposited by the sea. It was the narrowest of the four.

And the darkest.

Leuk and I didn’t argue. We clambered up the shells ahead of Aios. At the tunnel’s mouth, I held the torch into the darkness and saw that it went down. Way down. Aios climbed up beside me, snared the torch from my grasp, and smirked at me as he marched straight into the blackness. “Three men wide,” he laughed at us. “It’s perfect. Not scared, are you?”

We were, but it didn’t matter.

Down, down we went into the cave. I couldn’t believe any place in the world could be so dark. The ocean’s crash fell away to nothing. The only sounds were the torch’s snaps and our rotten boots squelching on the stone.

We walked for what felt like an hour. Then two. The tunnel never narrowed, never widened. The air tasted stale. White powder sloughed off the walls wherever we touched, and our boots left footprints in places no other men had ever been. I was sure night had fallen outside, but I’d have given anything to be back out there, to let the Ghoul steal me from sleep instead of moldering away after a long, slow walk to the world’s bottom.

Our first torch died. We lit another. Moments later, we slunk out of the tunnel and into an unthinkably vast grotto. It was truly massive, the cavern we’d found. Our torch felt like a candle in the great darkness. Far above, a lone shaft of moonlight cut through a hole in the ceiling and pooled in the grotto’s center.

“What is this place?” I whispered.

“A cave. Big as Veni.” Aios’ gaze was wide and black. “A giant, empty coffin.”

“No. Not empty,” I observed.

I’d seen caves before. In the mountains east of the Citadel, we’d walked through tunnels and grottos. They’d had growths in them, daggers of lime and ancient rock. There had been beauty in those caves, elegance in the way nature had carved them.

But the shapes in this cave were different.

They were sculptures.

Something had made them.

We didn’t say a word. We were too scared to talk, and too weary. Wandering out into the pool of moonlight, we gazed at the many hundreds of pale, ghostly statues standing on the grotto’s floor. They were graven of white stone, and in my heart I knew they were made of the same stuff as the lighthouse.

Bones.

Human bones.

Most of the statues were of people. We glimpsed beautiful maidens holding decanters. We saw smiling children, some holding hands and standing in great rings, others all alone. As we walked through the pale, silent gallery of thousands, we saw old men and venerable ladies, soldiers and wealthy lords, beggars, fishermen, and stoic hunters. The sculptures were beautiful in a way. Whoever, or whatever had carved them had a talent like no other.

Somewhere in the midst of it all, Leuk tapped me on the shoulder. I looked back and saw horror in his eyes.

“What is it?” I felt myself turn pale.

He pointed at a row of sculptures removed from the rest. I took Aios’ torch and forged into the dark. We came to it, the part of the cavern struck least by the moonlight, and we stood there with our mouths open.

“Monsters,” I exhaled.

“Demons,” we heard Aios whisper.

The sculptures in the shadows were not of men or maidens, children or village elders. They were of monsters, malevolent and skeletal, with talons in place of hands, pale knives instead of teeth, and faces made of nightmares. Some had horns. Others had tails. All of them had strange writing on their skin, words and sigils from a language none of us knew. But the true terror lay in their empty eye sockets, which were huge and full of evil.

As I stood there, breathing not at all, I believed in my heart these statues mimicked creatures that must have existed. “How else could they look so real?” I uttered without knowing it.

Aios pointed his spear at one of the horrific sculptures. He looked wild with fear, sweating and cursing beneath his breath.

“We have to destroy them,” he hissed.

“How?” I argued. “There’s thousands. Tens of thousands.”

“Fine. We have to find what made them. Find it and kill it.”

“What if…” I looked up at one of the horrors. “…what if these are what the Ghoul looks like?”

“All the more reason to kill it,” Aios growled.

I didn’t know where to start. My fingers went numb, and a chill crawled down my backbone. We stood there, the three of us, gazing into the grotto, stricken still with our terror.

It would’ve taken us hours to search the cave.

As it turned out, we didn’t have to look at all.

The first thing I heard was the patter of footsteps. Aios and Leuk heard it, too. Bare feet, I thought. But…small?

Aios waved his spear in the direction of the sound. He crouched, looking deadly and afraid. And then I saw it, a little boy darting between the sculptures. He was naked, pale as a fish, and faster than any child had a right to be. At ten paces, he climbed atop a sculpture and leapt from its head to another, smiling all the way.

I shouted. Leuk pulled his daggers out.

The boy. It’s him…the one throwing rocks on the beach, I thought.

We were too slow.

The boy leapt from atop the statue of a milkmaid. Aios spun, screamed, and jabbed with his spear. He missed. The boy landed on Aios’s head, and Aios started screaming. I don’t know what happened to me. As they struggled, I just stood there with my sword in one hand and the torch in the other. It was like I knew:

No matter what I do, we’re dead.

I never expected Leuk to be the brave one. Never. The boy clung to Aios’s head, clawing and snarling. As Aios squealed, Leuk stuck his dagger into the boy’s back. For a single breath I allowed myself to hope.

Leuk’s done it. I backed away. He’s saved us.

No.

Three times Leuk plunged his dagger between the boy’s ribs, and three times he drew it out. If the boy felt anything, I saw no sign. No blood oozed from Leuk’s steel. The boy’s skin opened up like dry, cracked parchment, but knitted itself closed within moments. I didn’t understand how such a thing was possible. Nothing the Citadel’s wise men had told us lived up to the truth.

With one of Leuk’s daggers still in its back, the boy-Ghoul leapt off Aios’ head. He looked up at us, still smiling, as Aios collapsed dead on the cavern floor. I saw no blood. I couldn’t conceive how so small a creature had killed one of the Master’s warriors. I was paralyzed. My sword felt as though it were made of paper. My blood felt like water in the last moments before a long winter’s freeze.

The boy-Ghoul dragged Aios into the shadows. Leuk stared at me, and then went after them. I swallowed so hard it wounded my throat. I knew what was about to happen. Somehow, someway, I knew. And when I heard a second set of bare feet pattering, and when Leuk cried out his last breath, I sank to the floor in a puddle of my own fear. Perhaps it was cowardice. I knew my sword wouldn’t matter.

So I didn’t even try.

Many thousands of breaths went in and out of me. I closed my eyes, and the world went dark. I don’t know whether I slept, but at some point I lifted my head from the floor and gazed into the darkness. The second torch had burned out, and so I fired another. It burned beside me as I sat there, a red whisper in the vast darkness.

There was but one thing left to do.

I opened Niko’s journal, dipped the quill into the last of his ink, and wrote:

There is more than one Ghoul. There may be dozens. Or hundreds.  

In a cave east of Veni, they hide.

They’ve been here for thousands of years, I believe.

They sculpt whatever they kill. Murder is their art.

They made the lighthouse.

They made the cliffs.

They took Aios and Leuk last night.

Tonight they’ll come for me.

 

The ink was almost gone. I only had a few strokes of Niko’s quill left. I don’t what made me do it, but I stood and walked to the most terrifying of the Ghoul’s demonic sculptures. I wasn’t as afraid anymore. I stuck the torch in the creature’s hand, held Niko’s journal before me, and started drawing the strange symbols and words graven into the sculpture’s skin. The words were old, old things. Maybe they were magic, if such a thing existed. I’d already shut the boy-Ghoul out of my mind, but for him to have survived Leuk’s knives meant something I’d never understand was at work.

I drew as many of the words and symbols as I could. When the ink ran out, I hunkered down and gazed into the dark. I left the book on my lap. I had the foolish hope someone would find it one day. The shaft of moonlight was far away, not enough to see by. I knew when my torch burned out, I’d die even if the Ghouls never came for me.

I didn’t have to wait long.

Within a hundred breaths, I heard their bare feet on the cavern’s cold floor. The boy came first. He was naked and ghostly pale. White powder, surely bone dust, coated his arms up to his elbows. His fingernails were crusted in dried blood. He’d been sculpting, I was sure.

My sword lay beside me. I didn’t bother to pick it up.

And then the second Ghoul came. I didn’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t her. Naked and beautiful, she walked into the yellow sphere of light made by my torch. Her hair was raven, her eyes pale blue lanterns. She wasn’t terrifying at all, at least not yet.

“I dreamed of you,” I said to her.

She didn’t flinch.

“Are all of these your work?” I regarded the thousands of sculpted dead.

She shook her head. Only some of them, she told me without words.

I sat, limp and sweating, and looked at them. The boy was her ward, her student, or maybe even her child. She tousled his hair, and a plume of bone powder drifted into the torchlight.

He’s the next in line, I thought.

She’s teaching him.

Just like another taught her.

Without moving any other part of my body, I extended my arm and set Niko’s journal into the nook between two sculptures’ feet. I left my sword where it lay. It occurred to me that I’d never once used it. Ever.

The Master would’ve stretched my neck just for that.

The boy-Ghoul started for me, but the woman held him back.

And then she showed me what she was.

With her fingers, she pried the flesh back from her cheeks. She tore like sackcloth; the sound alone made me sick. Next she peeled back the flesh from her arms and collarbone. She was one of them, one of the monsters so perfectly sculpted behind me. Her true fingers were boney claws, her real face a horror of white bone. She had no blood in her. She was all sinew and marrow, a skeleton wrapped in human skin.

I understood why none of the missing soldiers had cried out.

She’d probably never shown them the creature beneath her skin.

All they’d seen was a beautiful woman or a handsome little boy.

And when she killed me, it didn’t even hurt.

*

* * *

If you enjoyed The Skeleton Sculptor, consider reading The Hecatomb or leaving a review here.

Thank you,

J Edward Neill

Why I’m Staying My A%# out of The Woods

With Halloween around the corner I thought I’d dig into my box of what creeps yours truly out.

A gateway to the nether reaches of the soul........

A gateway to the nether reaches of the soul……..

Putting aside such horrors as flying cockroaches (Also known as the spawn of Satan.), and Jules Verne sized squids (It’s the eyes. They bore holes into your soul.) I’m going to focus on one particular thing that keeps me kind of weirded out to a small degree.

The wooded area behind my apartment complex creeps me out.  I’m a grown man, and I’m not afraid to admit that.  Laugh if you want, but for some reason the forested area behind my home can be a creep fest at times.

I grew up camping in Boy Scouts. I love a great hike through the forest, or on a park trail through the woods. Heck, after years of camping in upstate New York, my Dad taught my brother and I how to camp. So I say all this to say I enjoy getting lost (not literally) on a trip or two to the woods.

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There’s just something about the woods behind the apartment complex that’s just plain ‘ole creepy. Maybe its because of how my mind works with the writing, I’m always thinking of various scenarios that are playing out in the densely packed area behind my back porch. For instance, the first few weeks after we moved out here a couple of years ago, I remember my wife pointing out a set of sounds coming from the area behind our place.

I’m used to hearing dogs, cats, birds, maybe a raccoon or two. The normal animal sounds you’d associate with a forest that was adjacent to an apartment complex.

What we heard that night was just plain strange. I remember standing on the porch and listening to something that sounded like a cacophony of guttural, low moaning animal sounds. Or as my wife would put it “pure scariness”.

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Usually with most animal sounds that you might hear at the same time, you can discern one from the other. An owl sounds like an owl. A dog sounds like a dog. A raccoon sounds like a raccoon.

What I remember hearing that night, and  subsequent nights afterwards, was nothing I’d ever heard before or since. With my writers mind being as crazy as it is, I began to think that maybe a hellish portal had opened behind my house to release some other worldly creatures into our neck of the woods.

Damn you Stranger Things for getting that idea on screen first. 🙂

All I know is that when I’m walking my dog at night, we don’t head towards to the treeline where the woods meet the apartments. Outside of the concern that my pet will run after some random rodent that might pop out of the woods, I’m not chancing being snatched up by any of these creepy sounding creatures.

Now maybe what we’re hearing is just a regular ‘ole run of the mill forest dweller. I just know that I sure as heck am not going to try and confirm or deny that, by taking a field trip to the woods.

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Lastly, my apartment complex has done a piss poor job of keeping up the trail that runs through this area. Trash is strewn about, bridges have fallen into disrepair, small ponds are completely dry, leaves cover the path, and it just looks creepily abandoned by society.

I’m a geek when it comes to learning about abandoned areas like The Maunsell Sea Forts of England, Pripyat in Ukraine, or Hashima Island of Japan. Though I think the area where I live is far from getting to the “ghost town” status of these notable landmarks, I feel that the jogging/ walking path behind the complex is slowly but surely getting there.

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I’ve walked this path a few times (during day time of course) and each time I find myself with a general sense of unease. Not full on fright, or panic, but more so “yeah, I probably need to get the heck out of here soon”.

Maybe if our complex hadn’t seemingly just wrote off the area, and tried to keep it up, I’d feel differently. Until then, I’ll stay away from the abandoned looking path that winds behind our apartment.

Check out some pics from the above mentioned area, and enjoy.

Have a safe and Happy Halloween folks.

Could My Brain Be Evil?

The month of October is the absolute perfect time for that favorite pastime of mine: watching horror movies. I love the bad ones that everyone else hates and somehow only takes a couple of friends mocking it to make it seem all the better. I love the classics that everyone agree on as being the best of the best. New, old, black and white monster movies to slasher flicks to haunted house stories…

I love horror movies.

***

October is also a different kind of month for me. It is that last month which promises to be productive for writing before the hectic natures of November and December appear to rip every last bit of free time from me until the new year. Much like when you were in school and you had two weeks to turn in that report, but you decided to put things off day after day, because there was always a little more time there… before you know it, the thing is due and you’re up until four in the morning, blurred vision, just trying to get something on the page.

That’s how it is with my various projects.  And no matter how much I have accomplished over the last 9+ months, it’s never as much as I would like to have accomplished. I come up with plans and calendars and self-imposed deadlines, and still I feel like I’m always rolling that damn boulder up the hill.

Sheer horror.

***

tmnt-kraang

That’s when it hit me. Maybe my brain is evil?

That is the only conclusion you could possibly come to in all of this. We’ve been told throughout cinema how we can get so focused on the results that we rush headlong without actually doing all the little pieces of work. I mean, I’ve watched The Fly. I’ve read Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I’ve read a Superman comic with Lex Luthor. You can think you’re taking a good turn before you realize it has all been a lie from the very beginning.

Maybe that guy upstairs, rattling around in my skull, is both the architect of my salvation and also the cause of all my sorrow? He plays both the angel and devil on my shoulders. I just don’t realize that they are one in the same.

If this was a courtroom drama, I would go ahead and present my case (so that’s what I’m going to do).

1 – He conspires against me as I sleep. I know that now. There is a plan I’m not privy to where he has detailed the entire downfall of my writing career. And before you think that maybe I’m just being paranoid (his fault again), let’s look at the evidence:

2 – He loves a blank page. Every time I go to start a new project he likes to linger on that first, completely clean page. Subtle little thoughts of what could appear there managed to fight off those first instincts, but that is only because of the larger plan he has awaiting me.

3 – He makes sure that I forget my good ideas, even when I write down the most obscure titles. I’m pretty sure that the title of this blog doesn’t match my original intent (but I’ll show him!).

candle

4 – He’s the one that makes me think the last thing I wrote is no good. Ideas of “scrap the whole thing and rewrite it from scratch” run across my brain like the stocks at the bottom of all the news channels. Every line I write can’t be the worst thing he’s ever read, it’s just not possible (right?).

5 – He is the master of distractions. Oh, he knows every sports team that is playing and when they are going to be on TV. Or every internet site that we “probably” should check out – for “research” purposes. Time is just a con game for him, and he is damn good a manipulating it.

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Guilt – From Inside Out’s cutting room floor

6 – He’s best friends with Guilt. Together they form a powerful duo that will not only cause you to stay up too late staring at the screen, hoping for inspiration (who, as I understand it, is just outside the front door – if only I’d let her in).

7 – He’s into torture. At 2 in the morning, when the barest trickle of something which very well might be readable, starts to show up – that’s when the yawns come. That’s when I need to go to sleep.

8 – He invites the Beast to visit. Writer’s block. Knowing he could step in and save the day, but it is too much fun for him to watch me drown over and over.

***

It must be the same reasoning that causes me to like all of those horror movies. My Brain loves a good tale of woe and scares. Luckily for me, I’m onto him now. Maybe I can throw him off guard, stay a little bit ahead of him, and when these last couple of months start-up I can set a new momentum. Force him to play catch-up for once.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

 

Horror Movies That I Don’t Like

October has come again, and again my goal of watching a bunch of horror movies hasn’t quite managed to happen just yet. Luckily we’re at the beginning of the month, so I have a little more time to go about checking some things off my list.

Prior to beginning this post I looked around at plenty of blogs who list their Top 10, Top 30, even Top 100 horror movies. As much as I’d like to be able to have an opinion on each and every one of them, I couldn’t even begin to figure out if Let the Right One In should be above or below 28 Days Later. Or where Jaws might belong on my Top Horror Movie List.

Of course, horror movies are a subjective as any other genre. And there are a handful that I just don’t get the praise for. These movies get slotted high up in the rankings while other movies, ones I find much more deserving, languish below.

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High Tension

With each of these movies I have on here, there are definite “good” portions. I understand that. High Tension was a movie that I borrowed from a friend after he praised it. I only wish he’d told me to turn off the dvd at about the 45 – 60 minute mark, because the beginning of the movie more than lives up to the name. You have all manner of scares to keep you on the edge of your seat. You have a couple of heroines to cheer for – I really wanted them to get out.

And then the TWIST happens. I had to rewind the movie at first. It didn’t actually work within the framework of the movie. Then after I finished it (annoyed the whole time) I actually tried to see what the commentary might say about why they made this BIG choice (forgive me not giving the specifics, but I’d hate to ruin things for someone who has this still on their list). Nothing. Which leaves me to imagine that the act of having a solid, scary film wasn’t quite enough for them… and it will forever leaving me scratching my head.

Oh, what could have been.

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Texas Chainsaw Massacre

I can dislike a movie while still recognizing its place among the keystones of the genre. And I fully understand that, for better or worse according to who’s talking about the movies, without Texas Chainsaw Massacre there would have been no slasher renaissance of the 80s.

Here’s my problem: it’s boring.

That’s it. It goes on for far too long. The screaming goes on for too long. The dinner scene, while creepy, just goes on for to long.

I truly think that I saw this at the wrong time. By the point I got around to seeing this movie I was a horror movie veteran many times over. So any of the tricks that might have been invented within this particular framework was old hand. I’d been jaded by too much a of good thing, I guess.

Still, it’s not a good thing when by the end of the movie I’m hoping that no one survives, is it?

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The Descent

Tight, enclosed spaces. Yep, that’s scary.

Complete and utter darkness. Yep, scary.

Creepy monsters in the dark. Yep, scary.

I definitely get why people might like this movie. It has plenty of hot buttons to push. Add in a storyline that is constantly threatening to bubble over, and you just know this one is ending in a blood-bath.

Yet…

This is going to sound odd when talking about horror movies, but I still need the characters to actually act like people. Instead some of them just became speed bumps on the way to the big confrontation at the end which wanted to tell us that people are the problem sometimes, not monsters.

But this isn’t The Walking Dead… and I just didn’t buy it.

And then was there a “false ending” thrown in for no real point? Just no thank you.

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Friday the 13th

In the same category as Chainsaw Massacre, my problem with the very first Friday is that it has become more a trivia answer than a movie you’d want to watch. Jason doesn’t do the killing in this one, it’s his mother. Kevin Bacon gets killed in it. People have sex and then they die.

OK, but is it a good movie? Is it one that you’d watch again randomly at home?

No is the correct answer to that question.

In fact, we could make the argument that the Friday movies really are the ugly step-sister of the slasher sub-genre. It had become such a joke by the end that not only did Jason “go to Hell”, but he also hung out in “Space”.

Space… need I say more? Who the hell was going to see these movies?

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

 

At the End of it All

We’re in the process of catching up on The Walking Dead’s sister show: Fear the Walking Dead. I’m not going to discuss the merits of the spin off. Likely many people checked it out in the first season and found certain aspects of it not to their liking. Personally I feel like the second part of Season 2 has become to really hit it’s stride.

But that’s not what I want to write about today.

No, I want to focus on one of the core ideas Fear deals with that the main show certainly hits on from time to time, but given the “newness” of the zombie apocalypse, there are still things the main characters are trying to figure out. In an episode of Fear, the main group has the decision on whether they should help two people, one clearly injured. They could bring them both aboard and worst case make things a little more comfortable for the dying man.

Some try to maintain their old humanity by helping them, others on the ship are more concerned about their family’s safety. Ultimately the decision is made for them. Yet there is still the quandary:

If you were trying to survive in an apocalyptic situation, do you help strangers?

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Not to flat out steal from my Guildmate who writes the head scratching style of questioning books, J Edward Neill, but it’s a piece of the zombie outbreak question that is sometimes glossed over. From a horror movie sort of view, the answer becomes obvious: DON’T. Clearly everyone is out to get you and letting them have some kind of real and true access to you will only allow them to get more opportunities to kill you.

In the tv show/movies it is shown as a life or death equation. What isn’t always explicitly said, but clearly implied is that this decision affects you nearly as much as the person you want to help/leave behind. You may have to live with the consequences of inviting someone along with you if they end up doing bad things.

Court and I talked about it for a while as to what we would choose and came to a different question: What would members of my family do (I have not talked it out with them, this is just a straight out guess)?

My Dad – He’s too logical. Too protective of his family. In fact, I think he’d have to really dig in his heels with other members of my family in order ensure that no random element would be let into our group.

My Mom – She’d understand all the logic my dad would throw around. Heck, her head would probably agree with his decision, but I can’t foresee a situation where she wouldn’t at least try and help another person.

My Sister (Courtney) – Perhaps even more than my mom, my sister would want to help as many people as she could… at first. The one thing that would change that is if things went sideways and one of her family was put in danger. Assuming that like a tv show things could still work out, I could see such an incident ensuring no one else would get any assistance.

My Brother in law (Bill) – He has a big heart. He loves helping people in the real world. However… I think all that gets thrown out the window in favor of the group/family. No messing around, no-nonsense. Let’s get to wherever it is we’re going and that be that.

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My Brother (Mark) – Probably the one I’m most unsure on. I lean towards thinking he’d move on past the strangers for the sake of his group, but a small piece of me can’t help but think that perhaps he’d try to give them some assistance… possibly food/water.

My Sister in law (Meagan) – On the other hand, she’s going to want to help other people. Maybe even to the point that the very thought of NOT helping would cause her distress. She might be the one who leaving someone behind would weigh on the most.

My Mother in Law – Someone who has effectively adopted her next door neighbors  would be hard-pressed to turn away others, I think. Talking it out with my wife, she thought that her mom would then feel guilt about all the other ones out there that she couldn’t get to.

My Father in Law – Before he passed away, I think I would have put him in the move on column, but at his wake I got to meet many of the people in the AA program who he helped try to get their lives back on the right track. Strangers who he felt compelled to help because he was in the same situation. In this case fiction has to mirror reality.

My Step Father in Law – A former cop and a former locksmith, he’s definitely someone I want on “my team” when the end comes. As we search the wasteland for signs of food and water, those locked places would open their treasures up to us. He’s one that I lean towards helping strangers, but it would have to be the right place and the right time as his background in law enforcement could very well help him spot those trying to do us ill.

My Brother in law (Nathan) – A lot like my dad, I think Nathan wouldn’t entertain the possibility of something endangering his loved ones. And these Strangers, they are a variable in the equation that might not sit quite right.

My Sister in law (Mandy) – I don’t think she’d invite the Strangers to come along, but instead falls into the category of wanting to help where she could through extra food/clothing/etc. But when we break camp, you need to go in a different direction.

My wife (Courtney) – I think we’re to the point where she’s watched too much Walking Dead to totally trust the random strangers. If something seems too good to be true type thing.

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It would weigh on her, though.

And me? I think I’d have to think of my group/family at first, but after sleepless nights trying to weigh whether that was even the right decision, we’d eventually come upon someone(s) where the guilt would force me to let them in.

I can only hope that these are good people I’m letting in.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

the Hecatomb – ‘heka’tom/

In a drowned village, on a dark shore, in a city of white stones, an ancient evil stalks.
It has no name, no face, and no desire but to see the death of everything…
…and everyone.
Down through the ages it exists, sleepless and void, a relic from the world before humanity.
One dead. Every night. Forever.
Until nothing remains.

*

Hecatomb – ‘heka’tom/ (noun) – An extensive loss of life for some cause.

or…

The name of my terrifying new novella.

 The Hecatomb includes 4 short stories, each connected, each taking place in the same world.

It’s up to readers to decide the order in which they take place.

J Edward Neill

Little Mia Doesn’t Stand a Chance

In the old world city of Ellerae, one person goes missing every day.
Poor little Mia doesn’t stand a chance.
Or does she?
One dead. Every night. Forever…  

Let the Bodies

A terrifying follow-up to the short story Old Man of Tessera.

FREE for the weekend.

LettheBodies_BlogLg

Let the Bodies is one of four short stories appearing the novella, The Hecatomb.

TheHecatombWeb

As ever, I appreciate your reviews.

Love,

J Edward Neill

The Hecatomb – ‘heka’tom/ – An extensive loss of life

Hecatomb – ‘heka’tom/ (noun) – An extensive loss of life for some cause.

or…

The name of J Edward Neill’s terrifying new novella, NOW available.

 

In a drowned village, on a dark shore, in a city of white stones, an ancient evil stalks.
It has no name, no face, and no desire but to see the death of everything…
…and everyone.
Down through the ages it exists, sleepless and void, a relic from the world before humanity.
One dead. Every night. Forever.
Until nothing remains.

Your reviews are appreciated. 🙂

J Edward Neill

Surprise! Two Creepy Stories!

Superior creep.

Horror on a stick.

The hairs on the back of your neck…rising.

Yep. It just happened. I’ve released two short stories. If you’ve already read Old Man of Tessera or Let the Bodies, these two creepilicious tales will finish you off. Nice and dead-like.

Introducing bite-size books The Skeleton Sculptor and The Circle Macabre:


The Skeleton Sculptor Cover

*A soldier of misfortune joins ninety-nine of his brothers in the hunt for a mysterious creature that has tormented humanity for centuries. One by one, he watches the men vanish in the night. One gone. Every night. Forever.

*

*

*

The Circle Macabre Cover*

Erisa Stavrou, hunter of hunters, pursues her final prey into the sprawling city of Valai. Armed only with her shirt, her sandals, and an unbreakable blade, she knows she alone can destroy the last Horror. Without her, the endless cycle of one dead, every night, forever will continue until all mankind is destroyed.

 

 

Both books also appear in the novella, The Hecatomb.

They can be read in any order.

So long as you read them in the dark… 🙂

J Edward Neill

The HECATOMB – One Dead, Every Night, Forever…

THE HECATOMB

 Now available!

*

In a drowned village, on a dark shore, in a city of white stones, an ancient evil stalks.
It has no name, no face, and no desire but to see the death of everything…
…and everyone.
One dead. Every night. Forever.
Until nothing remains.

*

The Hecatomb includes four short stories, including previously published horror hits Let the Bodies and Old Man of Tessera. The series concludes with all-new spooky tales, The Skeleton Sculptor and The Circle Macabre.

Each story is set in the same world. It’s up to readers to decide the order in which they happen…

TheHecatombWeb

The eerie KINDLE version…

 

TheHecatombWeb

The unholy PRINT version…

Get it. Drown in it. Review it.

J Edward Neill

One dead. Every night. Forever.

Let’s keep 2016 cold.

Nah. Let’s keep it chilling.

Introducing the cover art for my novella, The Hecatomb.

TheHecatombWeb

Hecatomb (n) – an extensive loss of life for some cause…

The Hecatomb contains four spooky short stories, including fan favorites Let the Bodies and Old Man of Tessera.

The stories are all set in the same world.

It’s up to readers to decide in which order they take place…

TheHecatombWebBack

The Hecatomb is now available for Kindles and in a deep, dark softcover!

Special thanks to Amanda Makepeace for helping me put my original painting into print.

See you soon…

J Edward Neill

22 Shadows hit the Streets

Winter is coming…

And with the cold season’s arrival, it’s time to gather ’round the fire and read until the world thaws.

We’ve got just the remedy:

Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows

Now available

With 22 sci-fi, fantasy, and deadly modern short stories by: J Edward Neill, River Fairchild, John McGuire, Chad J Shonk, JL Clayton, Phil Elmore, Roy T Dodd, Robert Jeffrey II, and F Charles Murdock

Machina Front Cover

The sexy matte-black SOFTCOVER. A bounty of fantastical tales to steal your nights away.

 

Machina Front Cover

The electrifying E-BOOK. Drown in the deep, dark waters of your Kindle.

Get yours today.

J Edward Neill

Machina Obscurum – Set List of Shadows

Coming in early December…

Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows

More than 20 shadowy shorts by authors: J Edward Neill, Chad J Shonk, River Fairchild, John R McGuire, Phil Elmore, JL Clayton, Robert Jeffrey II, F Charles Murdock, and Roy T Dodd

 

Tread lightly into ancient, forbidden realms.  Wander into the futures of apocalyptic worlds. Know what it feels like to face the darkness alone. 

No matter what whets your appetite: sci-fi, horror, fantasy, or hard, dark realistic fiction, A Collection of Small Shadows has it all.

…and more.

Machina Front Cover

Contents:

The Stiletto

Appetite

My Ears Rang 

The Sleepers

Phoenix

The Jupiter Event

Proxy: Fontane Di Roma

Til the Last Candle Flickers

Old Man of Tessera

Let the Bodies

Crispin

Murgul

And I Feel Fine

The Crossing: Moonlit Skies

Ice Cream

The Journal

The Sound of Silence

By the Time I get to Arizona

The Dark That Follows

Herald of Tessera

Crawl 

* * *

Will be sold as a sexy black matte softcover and an electrifying e-book.

The Write or Die Project is complete.

J Edward Neill

Eerie, Haunting and Beautiful

It’s that time of year again… I hope you enjoy these fantastical artworks and have a delightfully dark Halloween!

 

Did you miss last year’s post Monsters, Magic and Moonlight?

A Few Hidden Movie Gems for The Week of Halloween

Getting right to the meat…

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Zombie Honeymoon

I’m not saying it doesn’t have some eye-rolling moments. It may very well not live up to this on rewatch.

But…

We all know that zombie movies are never only about the zombies as much as they are a device to tell a story about people and the world they inhabit. And this movie is no Apocalyptic Wasteland, but more or less a normal life with one small twist:

The husband is slowly turning into a zombie.

So the movie asks you one question: if you truly loved someone, how far would you go for them? And not in an action movie “gotta save my wife/daughter/husband/son” sort of way. This is your husband turning into a creature who kills people. Do you cover it up? He still can have conversations with you. He’s still seems to be the man you fell in love with… only he now eats people.

Do you kill for him?

When is love not enough?

 

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Teeth

I’m going to get crap about even mentioning this movie. I brought this one to a Halloween movie night and it did not go over well with everyone. Doesn’t mean it isn’t worth watching once.

In a ton of ways It Follows delivers on Teeth’s original promise. They both are views on sexuality and how both sexes view the issue differently. They both attempt to capture the old Horror movie standby that SEX = BAD = DEATH.

Except that in Teeth they aren’t saying it is outright bad, only that aggression will be met with aggression. That if you decide to stick your piece somewhere unwanted, well… BAD things are going to occur. Suddenly the woman has the power to defend herself in an unexpected way.

But mostly it is about growing into an adult. How you deal with the changes – both physically and emotionally.

 

the signal

The Signal & Pontypool

I’m grouping them together because they both deal with the idea of communication gone wrong.  I’m reminded of an Twilight Zone episode from the 80s version of the show. Two reporters come to a town to investigate some strange things going on, but what they find is that someone has figured out the Secret of Life. The only problem is that our minds cannot handle the truth, and so we snap.

I’ve always loved that idea of ideas as a virus.

Pontypool deals with the very idea our words can be the thing to cause us to go mad. A DJ, trapped in his station by a snowstorm getting these various updates of madness. And him slowly beginning to understand what might be causing it.

pontypool

With The Signal you get more of the traditional zombie movie, with a strange signal driving the madness. People turning on one another. Divided into three sections, the movie shows how we need to keep our loved ones safe… and how that ultimately may not even be possible.

George Carlin had a routine where he talked about the idea that given how we mistreat the Earth, perhaps our sexually transmitted diseases are the way the planet fights back. That anything related to sex was a no brainer since we all do it, want to do it, or perhaps are currently doing it. Sex is the ultimate delivery system to spread the madness.

So are words.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

All Hallows Book Sale Part 2

Autumn

All Hallows Eve

Jack o’ Lanterns, Skeletons Swaying in the Wind, and Bucketloads of Candy

1

Because I’m still crazy, I’ve decided to discount several of my books. From today until Halloween at midnight, my darkest, spookiest, creepiest titles are on sale…

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Old Man of Tessera, a creepy short story. It’s the prequel to the even creepier Let the Bodies, and it’s FREE for Kindles until Halloween at midnight!

101 Questions for Midnight Front Cover

101 Questions for Midnight. No All Hallows party will be complete without it. Gather your friends close, light some candles, and get deep. FREE until midnight on Halloween.

 

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Down the Dark Path – Part I. A deep, dark fantasy novella unlike anything you’ve ever read. Kindle version only $0.99. Sexy matte black softcover only $5.99. …until All Hallows dies.

* * *

So be like a zombie and crawl out of your grave. Be a vampire and rip your coffin lid to pieces. Or be like a human…and read a book until the world ends.

All I ask…if you dip your paws into this candy…is that you leave an Amazon review 🙂.

Trick or Treat…

J Edward Neill

Check my entire book catalog here.

 

Night Stone by Rick Hautala

Night Stone by Rick HautalaWhen I first caught the reading bug in my early teens, it was horror fiction that grabbed hold of me and changed my life. I use to be one of those kids that hated reading. It was torture. A kind soul introduced me to Stephen King and it was then I realized I’d just been reading the wrong books.  In 1990/91 I stumbled across a copy of Night Stone by Rick Hautala. It was the paperback edition with the holographic image. I can’t recall now where I found the book, but it looked creepy so I decided to give it try. The book ended up giving me nightmares. But I kept reading! I suppose reading a scary book just before bed, on the floor, peering under a large bed with darkness creeping across the your blanket, could have played a role.

I read Night Stone while my grandmother was visiting and when my grandmother came to visit I always gave up my bed. Was it just the timing of it all? Reading a horror novel and imagining monsters under the bed? I’ve decided to see if the book that scared me silly back then would do the same 24+ years later. I no longer have the paperback, but the book is now available for Kindle. Look for my verdict next month!

Until then…

Night Stone by Rick Hautala (Kindle)HIDDEN TOYS

The old house in Maine gave Beth the creeps. She couldn’t believe they were really moving in. If it weren’t for the wooden doll she had found in the closet of her new bedroom, she would have been miserable. But the strange hand-carved figure fascinated her, and she sensed with a child’s instinct that she had to hide it from her parents…

HIDDEN EVIL

It was a house of darkness and shadows, but with her secret doll, Beth wasn’t afraid. Not even when she heard the scratching and whispering at night. Not even when the tall, massive stones of her dreams began to ooze with blood. For as she stared into the eyes of the wooden doll, she heard it call to her and felt the force of its evil power. And she knew that it was about to tell her what she had to do…

True Horror

I want to write about things which go bump in the night. I want to embrace that certain time of year where we all yearn to be scared for some primal reason that we might not ever understand. I want to discover the next horror movie or book or comic or tv show I should be watching in order to get my fix during this month.

I want to talk about all of those things, but I am forced to focus on a different sort of horror this year. The sort of horror that haunts you as it unfolds, but then sticks with you for the remainder of the week… only to happen again and again. The truest horror for any sports fan.

The horror of the wasted season.

Miami_Dolphins_2013

That’s what I’m dealing with 4 weeks into the football season this year. The Miami Dolphins have already fired their coach. This was a team some people thought would not only go to the playoffs, but could/would compete for some glory. A team that was 8-8 last year and whose personnel had gotten better (in theory at least).

Instead it has become the dysfunctional party we all know and love for the better part of a decade. And I can take a team being bad IF (and that’s a big IF) there is a chance for light at the end of the tunnel. IF there is a way for this to be a temporary measure. In fact, that’s basically what this last Baseball Season was for me. For the first time I don’t think I watched a full Atlanta Braves game. Oh, I still kept up with them on a near daily basis, still read the articles, read the blogs, watched at the trade deadline to see what moves they made.

But I knew this season was going to be bad. I knew there was almost 0% chance of them being in any race other than one of the poorer records in all of baseball. And I can deal with that. Next year needs to be better, and then the year after they should be in the hunt for a playoff spot (if the powers that be are to be believed).

Here’s the difference with the Dolphins, I go through this every 3 or 4 years with them. They either get a new coach or a new system or a new “something” and suddenly they are the vogue pre-season pick to do grand things. You’d think that after falling for this multiple times over the better part of a decade I would have steeled myself from such stupidity, but NOOOOOO, I am clearly a glutton for punishment. I buy in. “This is going to be the thing that pushes us up to the top, just you wait and see.”

Only to watch it all crumble and die on the vine.

I mean, our head coach was fired on Monday. And as much as I think that was the right move for the team at this point, what do I honestly think is going to come of this season? We’re 1-3 with a schedule that I thought we could be at least 5-1 after 6 games. Our next two opponents are weak (compared to us though they might be world-beaters). So what is realistic? 4 wins? 5 wins over the course of a season?

And don’t think me “fair-weathered” here. I watched every game of our 1-15 season. I will watch every game of this season. I’m just tired of the same things happening over and over and over again.

Sigh.

And the worst part is that I’ve dragged my wife down on this ship with me. She could have found a nice guy who liked deflated balls and won Super Bowls, but she got someone who liked the team from south Florida.

When Do I Get To See The Sailboat?

When Do I Get To See The Sailboat?

We joke in the house about when will we get to see the sailboat – meaning, when will one of our teams win the big one. But right now we are still like Wilhem from Mallrats…

Still looking for that damn boat.

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the recently released anthology Beyond the Gate, which is free on most platforms!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Cryptids – The Strange and Weird

Top 5 Cryptids

What’s that? You don’t know what a Cryptid is? They are the creatures that we all know exist, deep down in our heart, but there is actually no real evidence that the beast exists. All we have is possible sightings, hearsay, and rumor from the past. And yes, as the world gets smaller and smaller by the advances in technology, the very idea that any of these things could actually be out there seems to be more and more a dream. Still…

When I was younger I remember a book I had. I’m not sure where I got it, though I suspect it was at one of our school’s book fairs. It talked about monsters, both in movies and those that might exist in real life. So you had everything from Godzilla to Bigfoot and anything in between. I love this kind of stuff. The idea that we both know the world around us and yet, at the back of our minds, there is that question. Maybe they do exist?

And before you dismiss them outright, consider this… when the first people reached Australia they described a creature that stood on 2 legs, jumped like a frog and sometimes had 2 heads.

Obviously a horror like that couldn’t exist… right?

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Obviously doesn’t exist in the real world.

 

So, before October and Halloween greets us properly, I thought I’d reflect on a few of my favorites.

Loch Ness – I know that there are other ones out there, but Loch Ness is the first one I read about. And the one I wonder how it could still be a possibility. I get that the lake is huge, but come on, with our modern technology we can’t find a dinosaur in there, somewhere? Nobody has decided to chum the water hoping the thing will take a bite and show himself.

No, this one I have written off a long time ago. I mean, it would just be too cool to have a real life dinosaur still exist somewhere out there. Just too cool… can’t let that happen.

Mongolian Death Worm – Electrical discharge. Acid Spewing. Big old red worm that lives in the desert.

Check, check, check.

I don’t know if this is one I love like many of the others below, but I certainly am terrified by the possibility of such a creature. Where most cryptids have maybe one ability, this one comes like a nightmare. Or maybe it is the most “little kid creature”. Almost like someone asked a 6-year old what would scare them the most, and then didn’t stop him when he kept going.

“And then he would be able to turn things yellow… and then…”

Kraken – It would have to appear on this list for one reason alone:

“Unleash the Kraken!”

THE KRAKEN CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981)

Still, the old stories from pirates and seamen about this great squid creature that might live in the depths below. They stirred something in my brain, conjuring up images of great tentacles grabbing a hold of ships and ripping them in two. And then I read Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

There is already so much underneath the surface of the ocean, why not be fearful of one more thing.

“We’re going to need a bigger boat.” Indeed.

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Beast of Gevaudan – I’m sorry, but this is just one step away from werewolves, honestly. A bunch of larger, stranger wolves terrorize the French countryside in the 1760s to the point that the royalty have to issue a decree in order to deal with them. In fact, something has to be going on with the wolves over in France as that wasn’t even the first time they had terrorized the nation. In the 1450s a pack of wolves (again, obviously werewolves, right?) attacked the Parisians to the point that they named the pack leader (Courtaud) and ended up luring them into the city and stoned them in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Heck, I even read a book about the later incident which turned me on to the Beast’s story. Which I did a brief review of here.

I mean, you can never go wrong with werewolves.

Bigfoot – I think this is the one that started my love of these mysterious creatures on this list. Up there along with dinosaurs, this was one of those creatures my 10-year old self was convinced had to exist, and my 39-year old self isn’t 100% on it either.

In my mind I still see that footage from the 70s? (is that right? – turns out it was 1967) with the “Bigfoot” walking, taking a moment to regard whomever is recording the video, and then disappearing into the forest. And while that video is probably a fake, I have to believe that somewhere, in the undiscovered wilderness is a small population of these creatures who have occasionally been encountered and mistaken for a bear or large gorilla or even a hairy man. All these other cultures have their versions from North America to Asia… it can’t just be a hoax. It can’t just be fantasy.

Can it?

Maybe I just want things to be real. Maybe I like the idea of a world where a tiny bit of magic still exists in the unexplained.

Maybe…

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the recently released anthology Beyond the Gate, which is free on most platforms!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Short Film: Dark Origins

One of the highlights from Dragon Con 2014 (besides being in the art show!) was taking some time out to enjoy the Dragon Con Independent Film Festival. I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t even know there was a film festival. Dark Origins is from the Horror track (Demons, Ghosts, Aliens, & Monsters). This 12+ minute film was one of my top three.

A psychologist discovers the terrifying trauma haunting her young patient may in fact lurk beyond the girl’s fractured mind.

Directed by Evan Randall Green; Produced by Evan Randall Green; Written by Evan Randall Green

 

DARK ORIGINS – Short Horror Film 720p from Evan Randall Green on Vimeo.

Let the Bodies

Let the Bodies

A creepy J Edward Neill short story

Now available for Kindles and e-readers. Only $0.99

When one person goes missing…

…every day…forever… 

…poor little Mia doesn’t stand a chance.

Or does she?

LettheBodies_BlogLg

Let the Bodies is the sequel to Old Man of Tessera. It’s a standalone story. You don’t have to read one to enjoy the other.

For those who want to get into the prequel, check it here:

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J Edward Neill

Short Film: Spoiler

Spoiler

Another great short from my personal archive… Spoiler.

The zombie apocalypse happened — and we won.

But though society has recovered, the threat of infection is always there — and Los Angeles coroner Tommy Rossman is the man they call when things go wrong.

A Few of the Million Things I Should Have Written

We all those moments where we see something or read something or hear something and the only response is to slap our foreheads and exclaim “How obvious! Why didn’t I think of that?”

I mean it could be as simple as the Pet Rock or the windshield wiper on the back of your car, but for me it tends to take form in the movies and TV I watch or the books and comics I read. So here are a few of the culprits that have me shaking my head at myself.

Ready Player One

Ready_Player_One_cover

A newcomer to this list, the book is the crazy quest set in a future where everyone effectively has checked out of the real world and lives the majority of their lives online. That’s what the book probably says on the back cover (I’m too lazy to double-check, but take my word for it).

That’s not what the book is about. It is about being a love letter to everything good and holy from the 1980s. Hey, did you like War Games (the movie with Matthew Broderick)? Random Japanese monster movies? Dungeons and Dragons? Joust!?!

Then this is the book for you.

And guess what… I loved all those things. Constantly as I read there would be some reference to something I not only recognized, but flat-out LOVED. In many ways it was like my subconcious wrote the book and then gave it to this guy so he could slap his name on the thing.

Damn my subconcious!

The Walking Dead

Walking-Dead-AMC

Hey, I liked zombies before they were cool. In that between time where they had become a joke. Long after Romero had become a name only a few people might have known. I was watching those terrible movies and the good ones and everything else inbetween.

But The Walking Dead… that could have been me. And it isn’t just the idea of printing money with the release of the tv show or the comics or the spinoff or whatever may be next. No, the problem is that now, no matter what you do in “zombie” comic fiction, you can’t be better that The Walking Dead.

The frustrating part is that it took one guy to realize we all liked the story of survivors. We like the idea of a world trying to destroy us. And we love a story that isn’t going to end anytime soon.

The zombie movie that continues after the credits begin to roll.

So obvious!

A Game of Thrones

A-Game-Of-Thrones-in-PDF-EPUB

Again, not because of the TV show, but because this is a book (series) which has finally managed to bring Fantasy back to the forefront. Sure the Lord of the Rings films helped put the spotlight on the genre, but it wasn’t until the better part of a decade later that the world stood up and noticed.

I mean, fantasy novels are mostly what I read in middle school and high school. But the main problem with much of those pulp/D&D novels were that they derived from the same original source… Tolkien. Everything was really just a riff on those core ideas. Elves are mysterious. Dwarves are grumpy. Hobbits are called Halflings because we don’t want to be sued. Goblins and Orcs and Dragons and…

You get the point.

Game said that you could choose a different path. Something more realistic, less magic based and still be lauded for it.

Sadly, it may have done its job too well. It might be the new standard, and a new stand-in for Tolkien… instead of breaking the old rules it merely created a whole new set of them.

Cabin in the Woods

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The movie I certainly could have written. Especially in light of Scream being one of my all-time favorite movies (not just horror movies, but overall). The deconstruction of the genre by that movie is really taken to the next possible level here. In Scream you ask What are the Rules?

In Cabin you ask Why are their Rules?

It is an important difference, but one that I think I’ve been trying to find for a while. Something that might look at the horror movies of the 70s through today and anticipate what the next trend might be.

Cabin asks the questions better than I could have thought.

Damn it!

Let the Right One In

let the right one in

At a time when Vampires were not really the creatures of the night of our youths. Heck, they weren’t even the mysterious creatures from Anne Rice (they must have a decent publist). Let the Right One In gets back to both the idea of the unknown… this otherworldly THING who must be feared, and combines that with the idea that lonelyness is not just a human trait. That our need for connection with someone, with something will always triumph over everything else.

And that true friendship is one of the most important concepts in the world. So why not be friends with a vampire!

It’s like, how do you write a Monster horror novel with heart? Well, this is the way.

 

Well, that’s just a taste, but really, I need to go and try to write something so that my brain doesn’t forget to write the next one of these “obvious” ideas.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the recently released anthology Beyond the Gate, which is free on most platforms!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Author Interview and New Book Release – Keith Rommel!

Welcome to the latest in our long-running series of creative interviews. We’ll be interviewing creative individuals in the realms of writing, illustration, comics and more. Today we have author Keith Rommel, Long Island native, Floridian transplant, and author of grim new thriller, The Devil Tree!

Let’s get right to it:

Hi Keith! Welcome to Tessera’s latest creative interview. Word on the street is that you’ve got a new book. Please tell us ALL about it.

The Devil Tree is based off of a Port Saint Lucie Florida legend that I like to call the dirty little secret of this otherwise quiet community. There was this serial killer that would kidnap hitchhikers and preferred them in groups of two. He would hold them at gunpoint and make them negotiate why they should live and why their friend, the person he kidnapped them with, should die first. The killer has been noted as saying “Why kill one when you can kill two?” You couldn’t imagine how lively the conversation would get while one pleads for their life and begs you to kill their friend first.”
Bodies were buried and discovered years later.
DT

Awesome cover. Just straight up grim, just the way we like it.

Now tell us about yourself. Give up the goods on where you’re from and how you got here.

I am from Port Saint Lucie Florida and have lived here for over ten years. I’m originally from Long Island and came here to escape the hustle and bustle of the speedy New York lifestyle. I’ve adjusted to Florida living just fine and like it here. I am the writer of eight novels and have penned the critically acclaimed dark suspense Thanatology series. The debut novel in that series, The Cursed Man has been filmed as a major motion picture and is coming out this October, premiering in California. I am the co-screenwriter of the film with producer James L. Perry.

Tell us about your creative process. Do you have a strict method or…?

When I get an idea I do my best to outline it. Once the story is outlined, the writing process begins. The first draft is usually a train wreck but I edit it over and over again, and start adding details and all the characters’ personalities. The rewrites are my favorite part because that is when the story and characters start to take on lives of their own. It is during this process that I either love, hate or sympathize with the major players in the novel.

What kind of stories are your favorite?

I like my imagination being challenged every step of the way. I don’t like knowing the answer to the story after only a few chapters into the book. It is imperative to me when I write my stories that I write a plot that is not only difficult to guess what’s really going on but deliver a surprise ending that is long lasting.

What do you find most challenging about being a writer in today’s world?

The most challenging aspect of being a writer for me is standing out in a very overcrowded market. With technology making it easy for most anyone to be a writer, I believe the only way to rise to the top and build your audience is by being patient, release solid, well-told stories, and put out a finished product that won’t turn readers off. Professional cover, edited inside and a professional layout of the internal text is key. At no point can I afford to appear amateurish. I need to breathe new life into a genre that is plagued with zombies and end of the world conflicts whether pandemic or war.

How can people reach you?

By visiting my website: www.keithrommel.com. I answer all fan mail and questions from aspiring writers myself. There is a tab to contact the author.

How can people get a copy of The Devil Tree or some of your previous novels?

The Devil Tree is available as a hardcover or on your Kindle. It is on Kindle Unlimited and the unique thing about this release is if you buy the hardcover, you get a free download of the Kindle version. They can visit my author page by going here.

And now, from the back cover of Keith’s latest book, The Devil Tree:

Based on the Port St. Lucie Legend
Back in the 1970’s, a series of bizarre incidents occurred at what has since been known as “The Devil Tree.” Beneath this ancient denizen, evil was wrought by a sick serial killer, calling upon forces most evil and dark. People were hung there … and bodies buried there … exhumed by the police. Overcome by superstition, some tried to cut down the tree, to no avail. Since then, it has stood in a remote section of a local park — left to its own devices — quiet in its eerie repose — until now!

Best-selling psychological-thriller author Keith Rommel has imagined the whole tale anew. He’s brought the tree to life and retold the tale with detail only possible in a fiction novel. Action-packed, with spine-tingling detail, this thriller is beyond parallel in the ground it uncovers … one author’s explanation of what may have really been said — what may have really happened — under Port St. Lucie’s “Devil Tree.”

Check out more of Keith’s work:

Author of The Cursed Man, The Lurking Man, The Sinful Man from the critically acclaimed psychological horror series. The Cursed Man is coming soon as a major motion picture. Also available from Keith Rommel: You Killed My Brother (crime) and Among the People (paranormal).

Author site: keithrommel.weebly.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Thanatology.Series

Amazon: amazon.com/author/keithrommel

 That’s all for this week.  

 Special thanks to Keith for appearing.

More is always to come.

J Edward Neill

 

The Ultimate ‘Build Your Own Bad’ Guy Quiz

MonsterForest

So.

Ever seen a movie and thought, ‘That monster was cool. But I can imagine cooler?’ Ever read a good book but wished the villain were more of a badass? Ever daydreamed up a monster more terrifying than any hero can handle?

Good. I think you’ll like this quiz.

Answer the following ten questions and tally up your points. A’s are worth 1 point each, B’s worth 3 points, and C’s worth 5 points. Once you’ve answered all the questions, scroll down to the bottom and see what kind of abomination you’ve created.

Here we go…

Which of the following is most terrifying to you?

A. Skeleton, ghouls, and zombies. Relentless, slow-walking horrors.

B. Psychotic criminal types. Leatherface, the Joker, Freddy from Friday the 13th.

C. Monstrous, skyscraper-toppling horrors. Godzilla, dragons, the alien ships from Independence Day.

Where does your monster live?

A. In a crypt, a dungeon, a basement, or a vast underworld labyrinth stuffed to its top with bones.

B. Right behind you. It’s watching you…right…now.

C. Far from mankind. Out in the wilderness where no one dares to go. Or perhaps even on another planet.

How does it prefer to kill?

A. Claws, teeth, swords made of bone, axes forged in Hades.

B. A projectile to the back of your head. You never saw it coming. Hey, at least it didn’t hurt.

C. By making you its dinner. In one bite.

How grotesque is this beast of yours?

A. Horrid, rotting, festering. I mean, this critter leaves pieces of itself on the ground as it crawls to get you.

B. Not grotesque at all. Maybe even beautiful or elegant. All the better to get closer to its prey.

C. Alien in nature. Chilling to behold. You’d be so petrified to see it, you might not even run.

Motivation, Motivation, Motivation

A. It destroys because it has to. It knows nothing but violence.

B. It’s cold and calculating, but hardly senseless. This monster gets a thrill out of ending people.

C. Because it’s hungry. And people are crunchy-good.

Look deep into its eyes. What do you see?

A. Death. Bottomless, frozen death.

B. Yourself staring back at you.

C. Hunger. Nom, nom, nom

When does it come to claim its victims?

A. Only in the dark of night. It haunts houses after the sun sets, stalks moonlit graveyards, and frolics in forests black and empty.

B. At any time. You’re never safe. Ever.

C. Once every 1,000 years. During which it destroys everything, and then sleeps in the core of a burned-out star.

How can it be stopped?

A. It can’t be. You can drive it off, banish it, or flee so far away it’ll take years for it to catch you. But kill it? Nah. You might as well let it kill you now, otherwise you’ll just die tired.

B. Guns, explosives, nuclear weapons. The bigger the boom, the better the chance it’s dead.

C. Go back in time. Destroy its home planet before it hatches. Or hope the luckiest shot ever hits this monstrosity’s one and only weak spot.

 If it could say one thing before claiming each victim…?

A. “Give me your soul…forever.”

B. “I could’ve ended you a thousand times before. But this time it’s for real.”

C. “You’re so small…so weak…so easily destroyed.”

Name your monster’s nemesis.

A. A monster hunter. Cold-blooded. As relentless as the terror he/she pursues. With arcane weapons, a low cowl, and no shortage of courage.

B. A lawman, a knight, or the poor sod whose wife your abomination slaughtered. It’s a little about justice, and more than a little about revenge.

C. A scientist, maybe even a wizard. Someone who knows when bullets and swords aren’t enough. Someone whose mind can engineer the perfect plan to topple the beast with brains, not brawn.

 ***

So…what abomination have you created?

0-15 points – A undead horror, but not a lowly zombie or skeletal swordsman. You’ve conjured up the lord of the undead, a lich, a monster with the might to summon whole armies of the dead. This baddie desires nothing more than to drag every living thing down into the underworld. Congrats, your nightmares must be epic. Collect bones much?

16-25 points – A demonic spirit. You probably enjoy movies like Evil Dead, Paranormal, and that awful Billy Zane flick with the Tales from the Crypt dude. Your monster has two forms: One is a fiery, twenty-horned demon lurking within a smoking hellpit. The other…a malevolent spirit content to haunt the minds of mankind. Forget taking over the world. Your monster likes causing mass pain. Just because it can.

26-34 points – Your monster is…a human. That’s right, apparently you think John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer are awesome guys. But seriously, you’ve made a demented, lighthouse-dwelling, prostitute-slaughtering freak. Living on society’s fringe, your messed up human might be a nutcase who dresses up as a clown and kills for thrills…or a sexy bombshell who lures men back to her apartment…and then icepicks them and strings them up for the crows to eat.  Good job. Seek help.

35-42 points – The aliens on TV and in the movies don’t hold a candle to what you’ve created. You’ve dreamt up a skin-peeling, flesh-wearing, human-liquefying extraterrestrial. Oh sure, they’ve got lava for blood, seven rows of teeth, and telepathic powers, but what really makes your alien beasts terrifying is their agenda. They won’t be content with subjugating a suburban city or a village in the boondocks. They want to enslave all of humanity, force us to build a doomsday machine, and then turn us into human oatmeal for a nutritious, delicious snack.

43-50 – Yep. You win. Your abomination laughs at all the others. Hope you’re happy. You probably high-five Cthulu whenever you get home or have a luxury condo in one of Smaug’s teeth. Your monster is big. Really f’ing big. Why mess around with killing a few dozen people when you can eat them all? In five minutes. If your tentacle-armed, ocean-drinking, city stomping monstrosity ever looked one of us in the eyes, we’d be helpless but to stand still and wait to be crushed, enslaved, or hurled twenty miles into the sky.

More absurd quizzes to come.

J Edward Neill

Author of this.

And this.

What if…? The Wizard of Oz were a dark fantasy movie

Witch

 

Welcome to the fourth installment of the What if…? series. Previous entries include dark remakes of The Lord of the Rings, Sleeping Beauty, and Star Wars. Like Mick Jagger, I see a red door and I want to paint it black.

Recently, I sat down with my son to watch The Wizard of Oz. I had plans to let him watch while I cooked, cleaned, and otherwise carved my way through the day. He’d watch a classic, and I’d get stuff done. It was a perfect plan. Etched in stone. Stronger than the foundations of the world. Right?

Wrong

Twenty seconds in, we were both hooked. I’ve never seen a kid so rapt and silent, and I’m not even talking about my son. Every cool memory of watching The Wizard of Oz as a boy flooded my wee black little heart. I never got to my chores. We sat there, my son and I, and soaked the movie up in all its glory. We loved it. There’s no other way to put it.

So what’s the deal? How could The Wiz get any better? How dare I dream of what it’d be like to change it? It’s already perfect in every way, right? Right??

Maybe…

What if I tweaked the movie? A lot. What if it was a dark fantasy epic, an adult, R-rated, midnight-hearted feast? What if, instead of an American classic families crowd on couches to watch every year, it was a movie that dropped your jaw open, terrified you, and made you geniunely fear for Dorothy and her friends? What if…indeed?

 Let’s start at the bottom and work our way up. First and foremost, and I know I’ll get killed for this, but the dark version of The Wiz can’t be a musical. It just can’t. Instead of songs about rainbows and yellow brick roads, dark Dorothy needs to dream these things. As in dream them between her nightmares. Because let’s face it, this poor little girl almost lost her dog, ran away from home, whirled through an imaginary (or real?) tornado, and fell under the constant threat of a wicked witch. If she has dreams, at least some of them will be bad. So instead of cheery songs, I want scenes of her dreaming of the good life sandwiched between scenes of her dreaming of the horrors (let’s face it, Oz is a pretty messed up place) surrounding her.

Now that the singing is gone (or at least changed) we move along to the Witch. The bad one. The bad one who doesn’t have a house on her. She’s pretty creepy in the original. She’s got the evil castle, an army of flying monkeys, another army of British-guard looking dudes, and some nasty ideas for using her magic. So yeah, the foundation is laid. What we need now is screen time. More of it. I want to know why everyone hates her. I want to know why she’s wicked. Moreoever, I want her to win once in a while. Instead of getting walked on by Glinda, mildly splashed by Dorothy, and dismissed by Oz, I think she needs to kick some ass first. Why do the Munchkins hate her? Is it her green face and hook nose, or did she enslave an entire Munchkin city to build her castle? Why does Oz want her gone? Because she’s un-dateable as a fellow practitioner of magic? Or because she’s threatened to use her spells to corrupt all he’s worked to build? Give us 700% more Witch. And let her F things up in ways that obnoxious Glinda can’t just dismiss with a wave of her wand. Please?

And while we’re on the subjects of Glinda and Oz…

I’m fine with Oz the way he is. A megalomaniac. A king by way of opportunity, but not birthright. A techno-genius in a otherwise medieval-ish land. A liar and a faker, but ultimately not too terrible a guy. But once again, I need more of him. The movie is named after this dude, so let’s give him his due. I want secret labs beneath Oz. I want technological devices meant to destroy the Witch (and her sister) but not yet ready for service. If she has evil spells and armies of nasty critters, perhaps he has equally formidable forces. Fewer critters, but better weapons. More power, but more reluctance to use it. C’mon Dark Oz. Step it up.

And Glinda… Oh Glinda. If you can undo anything the Witch does with a wave of your wand, maybe you should do more. As in lots more. As in use your magic to take the bad Witch down. Otherwise, I need a reason. Maybe Glinda is a coward at heart. Maybe she’s only allowed to (total cop out) use her magic for good. Or maybe she once was a bad witch, and now she’s having doubts about destroying someone she used to be. Or maybe, deep down, she knows the Wicked Witch would crush her in a duel. Yeah. That’s the reason I’m going with. Glinda’s good ain’t good enough. She’s nothing but a meddler, a poker in the fire, but ultimately unable to stop the bad girls.

OzDirtRoad

The brown-scale stays. Eeriest part of the movie, in some ways, the colorless plains of Kansas.

Who lives:

Since it’s all just a dream (I think) and Dorothy’s friends are manifestations of the people she knows in real-life, we can’t kill off as many good guys as I usually would in a dark fantasy movie. So…the Scarecrow, Lion, Tin Man, ToTo, and Oz are all spared, as is Dorothy herself.

Who dies:

 Enslaved Munchkins who build the Wicked Witch’s fortress. Glinda’s sister, in a flashback being cooked by the Wicked Witch. Some of the flying monkeys and Oh-E-Oh! soldiers, cut down by the newer, badder Tin Man.

  And last but hardly least: the scenery. To grit up The Wiz, we need sharper, more monolithic representations of the wholesome set pieces in the original. The Wicked Witch’s Fortress: Smoking, haunted, macabre, and surrounded by a poisonous lake. The Emerald City: Huge and bustling, stuffed to the nines with Oz’s devices, inventions, and gadgetry. The Munchkin Village: Cute and merry as ever, but lying in the shadow of the previous village, turned to ash by the Wicked Witch. The Yellow Brick Road: Clear and easy to follow in some places, shrouded in darkness at others.

Oh, and btw, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion are at heart magical beings. I mean…a metal man, a dude made out of horse food, and a talking lion…I figure all three were created either by Oz…or quite possibly even by the Witch herself. Dark Wiz of Oz will explain. Even if briefly.

Final disclaimer: the original movie kicks the shit out of my dark imagining. Don’t for second think I hope otherwise.

Catch you later,

Buy this.

J Edward Neill

 

 

Duane Jones: A Horror Film Pioneer

“Now get the hell down in the cellar! You can be the boss down there, but I’m boss up here!”-Duane Jones as Ben/“Night of the Living Dead”

Growing up in Chicago, we had one of those late night B-movie programs, where some obscure horror flick would get shown every once in a while. This is where my love of zombie flicks beganwith George Romero’s “Night of The Living Dead.”

NOLD1

This film was my introduction to one of the greatest horror films of all time, and a film that gave birth to a sub-genre that has influenced the creation of numerous films, television series, novels, comics, video games, and even music videos.

At the age of 28, Romero and writing partner John A. Russo crafted a solid script that followed a group of individuals who find themselves trapped in a remote farmhouse, as the dead rise around them.

The film featured some of the most suspenseful filmmaking of its time. It was a forerunner for the use of gore effects in horror films, and featured an omnipresent sense of despair that left viewers tense throughout the film. In light of all this, what sealed the deal for me with this film was one character: Ben.

BenPlayed by Duane Jones, Ben was the take charge survivor, who used his wits and resolve to get through the hellish night. One thing that was awesome about this guy, outside of being such a resourceful and intelligent badass, was the fact that he was Black.

We often find African American characters being the first to die in such films. It’s even become something of a joke. If they weren’t inspecting a dark corner where the killer obviously was, the character was often relegated to being the comic relief or sidekick. This got old pretty quick.

Imagine how it felt to finally see a strong Black male lead taking hold of the catastrophic situation, attempting to keep things from getting worse. Add to this, and I know it’s been pointed out numerous times before, that it’s amazing that a film like this was made during the late 1960s. This was during a time where the idea of a competent African American character as a leader was anathema to a large swath of America.

In the film’s script, Ben was described as a blue collar truck driver, where his race was not specified. The character wasn’t fully fleshed out until Duane Jones was cast in the film, causing Romero and Russo to perform rewrites for his character. Romero explained he simply cast the best actor for the role, highlighting the amount of acting skill that Jones brought to the role of Ben.

As Jones explains in an interview featured on Dimension Films 40th Anniversary release of “Night of The Living Dead,” “Ben didn’t really have a biography. Ben was just passing through.”

As Jones further explains in another interview, “It never occurred to me that I was hired because I was Black. But it did occur to me that because I was Black it would give a different historic element to the film.”

Ben never falters in his resolve to survive the night, even coming to verbal and physical blows with the other NOLD3survivors. Now I know in today’s world we have a wide variety of African American leaders in a host of industries, but once again, you have to place this in the context of the time in which the film was made.

Others might even argue why even focus on something like this? What’s the big deal when we’ve got countless examples of African Americans making it to the finish line of many of today’s slasher/horror films?

Whether it’s Naomie Harris in “28 Days Later” or Ving Rhames in the 2004 remake of Romero’s “Dawn of The Dead,” there are a number of individuals making it to the end of the major studio films. This doesn’t even include numerous examples that may abound in independent films.

I’ve just taken the time to just show some appreciation for the guy who set the standard (whether he meant to or not), for those who’ve come since.

If you’re looking for a great horror flick, with a standout performance courtesy of the film’s star actor, definitely check out “Night of the Living Dead.”

 

Ben 3