Archives for posts with tag: Horror

Tales from a Talking Board (Word Horde) is a brilliant collection of 14 short stories by some of today’s greatest authors, centered around the theme of the Ouija board, in its various forms and incarnations, edited by horror author, Ross E. Lockhart. It will officially be available on Oct. 24, just in time for Halloween. It’s an eerie compilation of tales that belongs in the personal libraries and/or Kindles of everyone hwo loves the macabre.

This review of Tales from a Talking Board is based on an ARC I received from Mr. Lockhart, but it is, like all of my reviews, based entirely on what I thought of the quality of the writing. While there was, of course, some of hte short stories I liked better than others, and some that were, in my opinion, better written than others, that’s to be expected with any compilation of any sort. Generally speaking, though, on the whole, I was impressed with the quality of the short stories in Tales from a Talking Board, and if you’re a fan of the genre, as I am, I think that you will also enjoy reading it.

To avoid any spoilers, I will not cover any of the short stories in Tales from a Talking Board thoroughly, but i will let you know what they are about, to whet your interest and give you an idea what the tales are about, other than the general theme of the Ouija board and communicating with Satan and/or the dead.

Tales from a Talking Board opens with the tale, “YesNoGoodbye,” by Kristi DeMeester. The female protagonist, Cassandra, 14, asks her friend to join her in a session with her Ouija board. They both have secrets revealed, including her friend’s romantic interest in Cassandra. Oh, and there’s a horrifying demonic creature outside Cassandra’s window, as well.

Moving on from that terrific start, the second tale in Tales from a Talking Board is “The Devil and the Bugle Boys,” by J.M. McDermott. It’s about competition, the kind between high school bands, and it’s about what happens when questions asked a Ouija board get answers that are hard to bare. Comraderie between male teens and a jokingly-made deal with the Devil, one that the Devil takes seriously, makes this a very intriguing and interesting short story.

The third offering in Tales from a Talking Board is Anya Martin’s “WeeGee WeeGee, Tell Me Do.” One of the reasons I really enjoyed reading this tale is because it explores a bit of the history of the Ouija game, and goes back to the days of Vaudeville, when the great singer, Marie Cahill, helped make a song about using the Ouija board into one of the most popular songs in the United States. It’s also about a women who gets abused by her husband and desperately wants to leave him.

That brings me to the fourth short story in the anthology, a mysterious and fascinating tale with elements of science fiction in it called “When The Evil Days Come Not,” by Nathan Carson. It takes place, for the most part, in a very peculiar orphanage, ran by a quasi-religious man who is reportedly over 130 years old, who does not have the best interests of the children at heart. It’s an odd, unique tale that I loved reading, though it is a disturbing one, in some respects–cool stuff!

The fifth short story in Tales from a Talking Board is “Grief,” by Tiffany Scandal, a great author who has a very eye-catching last name, or pseudonym. Parents grieve over the death of their son, who had cancer, and they want to try contacting his spirit with a Ouija board. They find out it wasn’t necessarily the wisest thing for them to do.

Then, the collection’s sixth tale is a funky gem called “Spin the Throttle,” by David James Keaton. It’s an unusual take on the traditional Ouija game and communicating with the dead, or possibly, with Satan. Many unusual items can be used to learn secrets from the Other World, partiers speeding down a road in the back of a truck, in a hot tub, discover.

Tale number seven in Tales from a Talking Board, the halfway mark in the collection, numerically speaking, is “Pins,” by S.P. Miskowski. In it, a woman, Helen, travels with her friend, Barb, to a psychic, who tells Helen that she must hold pins in her hand. This is, to me, another highlight in the anthology, though it’s about communicating with the dead via a psychic, rather than a medium. Helen thinks the psychic is fake, until…well, you’ll just have to read it to find out what Helen finds out!

The eighth short story in this page-turning anthology is one with one of the coolest titles in the collection, “Deep Into the Skin,” though several other cool titles follow. It is written by Matthew M. Bartlett and is a tale narrated by a first-person character who runs a tattoo parlour called Mikey’s Ink Chamber. Mikey’s old mentor gets murdered in a grisly fashion, and an employee fears that maybe a serial killer is on the loose. Three odd-looking people come into Mikey’s shop, and one locks the door behind him. He tells Mikey he wants him to do a job, in return for his life, in this thrilling tale.

I’ll briefly touch on the last few short stories, which are also great fun to read, especially for fans of the occult and horror stories. Short story number nine in Tales from a Talking Board is one with another very cool title, “Burnt Sugar Stench,” by Wendy N. Wagner. It’s another tale told in the first person, and is about Takas, a 20-year-old clairovoyant who is often “on retainer,” both by the cops and by Russian organized crime figures, like “the Raskolnikovs.” She is given the job of locating the kidnapped heiress to the Raskolnikov fortune….Time traveling and saving the world are parts of this terrific tale.

Numero diez, or ten, in Tales from a Talking Board is yet another tale with a cool and intriguing title, “Worse Than Demons,” by Scott R. Jones. It begins in a rather novel way, as the entire short story is meant to be an interview a reporter from a magazine conducts with a director, Gregory Martens. One of the interesting themes the story explores is if language can be considered to be a “virus.” It’s one of the tales I consider to be a highlight of the anthology.

The eleventh short story in the anthology is another one with an eye-catching title, “The Empress and the Three Swords,” by Amber-Rose Reed. It’s a first-person tale set in London, and in it, an acquaintance of the narrater’s, an actor, takes him to the residence of a woman known as “Gypsy.” It’s a gem of a tale, about the Tarot, a sword given as a gift, and the fate of the Birds, and a future that Gypsy is reluctant to reveal.

“Questions and Answers” by David Templeton is the twelfth short story in Tales from a Talking Board. The characters in this tale, who take a class that’s an introduction to becoming a Spirt Board operator, learn that education continues even in the Afterlife. This short story is another of my faves in the collection, and even includes mention of how Alice Cooper reportedly got his stage name.

The thirteenth short story in the anthology is another one with an intriguing title, “Harpuspicate or Scry,” by Orrin Grey. It’s about a woman attending college and her attachment to a much older professor of Philosophy, who she asks to walk her down the aisle when she gets married. They don’t have a love for each other, but he is influential in her life, and she sometimes spends the night at his house, rather than traveling back to the city she lives with her husband, Gavin.

When the professor dies, the narrator tries to communicate with him through Ouija boards. He gave her a phrase from a poem to memorize, but no matter how hard the narrator tries, she cannot make contact with him…until one day, someone she knows does, through an entirely different way, in this terrific tale.

Finally, the fourteenth tale in Tales from a Talking Board is “May You Live in Interesting Times,” by Nadia Bulkin. In this brilliant short story, a man struggles with his religious beliefs and the desire to contact a dead love interest, and the latter wins out. He throws away his career, and more, trusting in a Ouija board and his dead girlfriend, Alice, more….but, she is not the same, at all.

Fans of horror tales and the macabre will enjoy reading the collection of horror stories that make up Tales from a Talking Board, edited by Ross E. Lockhart. Check it out today, and have pleasant screams! Yeah, it’s a hackneyed phrase, but, oh, well….This a a Must Read for anyone who has every had an interest in the occult or using Ouija boards–get it, or regret it!

Written By: Douglas R. Cobb


The Dramos Saga by the amazing author Franklin E. Wales relates the adventures of the title character, Dramos, a character torn out of the old Wild West, who also has a unique set of talents when it comes to killing supernatural beings like werewolves and vampires. In the interrelated stories about Dramos and his exploits that make up The Dramos Saga, Wales skillfully weaves in plenty of action to hold the interest of his readers, a fan base that is exponentially growing by the day. If you would like to enter to WIN an ebook copy of The Dramos Saga, just leave a comment below, with your name and country, state, or province where you live, and be 18 or over –it’s that simple, though there are a scant few other rules, which are below! Fans can also buy The Dramos Saga and the author’s other novels at Amazon here.

Without (hopefully) revealing any Spoilers, The Dramos Saga opens with “13 Steps.” In “13 Steps,” Wales introduces his readers to the character of Dramos and hints at his origin story. At the beginning of the tale, Dramos, or Doriano “Dramos” Tepedino, as he’s otherwise called, is getting ready to be executed, by getting hung by the neck until dead. The rest of the first short story is about what leads up to Dramos’ death sentence, why he pleads guilty, and how he cheats death, because he — you will just have to read how he does it, yourselves. The fact that he does cheat death is not much of a spoiler, as, of course, there are other short stories in the book, all featuring the central protagonist, Dramos.

Are there werewolves in the first story? Yes! And, Drmaos encounters a foe from his family’s past, from Italy — the vampire, Tarczali. Wales also relates how Dramos, who starts out the story nude, stumbles into an encampment searching for clothing to purloin and becomes a part of a stagecoach robbery. There’s enough violence and shoot-outs in “13 steps,” to satisfy the most jaded of Western fans, and enough supernatural beings like werewolves to also satisfy most horror fans, or at least, ones of the Old School variety, who love reading about beings like werewolves and vampires that actors like Lon Chaney, Jr., and Bela Lugosi originally helped make famous on the Silver Screen.

Then, The Dramos Saga goes on to relate other, related, adventures that Dramos is featured in, like the second short story in the collection, “Funeral Coach.” Dramos is hot on the trail of the Vampire King, himself, who goes by the name Pierre Durie. A character called Colby has been forcibly enlisted by Tarczali’s minions at the Circle Star Ranch to be a Coachman for a funeral coach.

When Dramos orders Colby to get down from the funeral coach, he learns the horrible truth behind it, directly from Colby. He cannot get down, as he has been chained to the stagecoach at his ankles. The lead rider next to Colby has been shot in the neck and is practically dead. Colby tells Dramos, that the funeral coach contains a coffin. Dramos shows Colby that inside the coffin….ah, but that would be a Spoiler, so I will not mention what Dramos shows the Colby.

The other short stories — or chapters, that stand alone as parts of the overall saga of Dramos — are “Pickin’ To Beat The Devil,” “Renegade,” “Vampire’s Gold,” “The Vampire King,” and “Blackwater.” The other five short stories in The Dramos Saga will leave readers enthralled, and there is much more violence, blood, gore and gunfire for anyone who loves reading Westerns and Horror novels in this genre-crossing collection.

Besides the rules above, including leaving a comment below and either letting me know where you live below or through a Twtter or Facebook message, what are the remaining few rules? The period of time entries to win an ebook of The Dramos Saga will be accepted will be from Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017, to Friday, Oct. 13, 2017, at midnight. Also, anyone related to me cannot enter, and if you have won something from this website during the past 90 days, you are not eligible to win this contest. The potential winner will have a five-day period to respond when I contact him/her, to then email the winner the ebook. If the potential winner does not reply within the five-day period, a new winner will be selected. Multiple entries are allowed, but please, do not leave a Spam-related comment, as anyone who does will be disqualified. Good luck!

By: Douglas R. Cobb

Here are the first three chapters of My Brother The Zombie (The Zombie Revolution: Book One). It’s available at Amazon for only 99 cents–just click
. But, read the first three chapters first, for FREE–try it before you buy it!

Chapter One
“When Zombies Weren’t Cool”

My older brother was a zombie when zombies weren’t cool. He became a zombie like most people did in those early days of greater innocence: through the alien plague that the giant (for insects, anyway) six-foot-tall beetles known as the Blaxons from the (much-maligned in science fiction novels) Sirius galaxy brought with them. The Blaxons weren’t here on a mission of conquest or expansion; that was the damnedest thing about the whole miserable outcome of their arrival. They arrived on Earth on Christmas day on a mission of peace, unlike the Europeans who colonized the United States and infected the native population on purpose with smallpox-ridden blankets.
Peace & love, and good will to all men; that is the message they wanted to spread. Instead, they spread a virus that caused people who came into contact with it, like my brother Ben, to turn into zombies.
Ben didn’t die, or anything dramatic like that. He just happened to be one of the first people to greet the aliens who landed in the world’s major cities. Ben shook the hands of the emissary Blaxon Major Slycon Glunk in Chicago, Illinois, when my brother was on a band trip to play his melophone on Navy Pier. He was the only one, the “lucky” one, from our band to be chosen for the dubious honor. That one handshake was all it took. Of course, beetles don’t actually have hands, but you get the idea.
Then, later that night where they were staying at the Westside Clarion Hotel, Ben started to feel feverish. He had the sweats, and complained of stomach cramps. He doubled over from the pain, and Mrs. Jessica Irons, the band director, even considered taking him to the hospital, though Centralia High’s insurance would take a hit. Within the second hour, Ben’s fever broke, so Mrs. Irons changed her mind. His chills did away with his temporary fever.
Since the closest disease to Ben’s symptoms, to Mrs. Irons’s recollection, was malaria, but she knew that malaria had been eradicated in America, she told my brother:
“Maybe it’s just the stomach flu. Or, a mild case of the West Nile fever. Would you like me to notify your parents?”
“No, that’s alright,” my brother said, “I’m feeling really much better, and seem to be getting my appetite back.”
“Well, that’s good,” Mrs. Irons said. “Especially because tomorrow, there’ll be an all-you-can-eat breakfast downstairs. And, we’re going to Casa Juan Bufo’s TexMex restaurant for lunch, for a genuine taste of Old Mexico, and for supper, we’re having our meal catered here by Mama Mia’s Pizzaria. You don’t want to miss out on that.”
“Do you think I could get Casa Juan Bufo’s to make me fajitas with raw steak?” Ben asked. “I know it sounds kinda gross, but I likes my steak to moo!”
“Hmm…” Mrs. Irons pondered. “I suppose that could be arranged. I’ll have to check up on that later and let you know. I just wish you weren’t still looking pale, but I’m sure that will pass once you get some food in you.”
“Yes,” my brother said, not wanting to alarm the band director, and believing that the yummy food that was on the horizon would vanquish his hunger pains. “I can hardly wait to tear into a leg—er—chicken leg, that sounds good, or a breast, or a—um—breakfast burrito or two would be great”
“O-kay then,” said Mrs. Irons. “Well, we’re going to have another busy day tomorrow, so perhaps it would be best for you to get to bed now and rest up.”
And that’s exactly what Ben did, or at least, what he tried to do. He went to his room, which he shared with Franklin Stubbs, who played the trumpet.
“Dude, I thought you were going to start throwing up all over Mrs. Irons’ designer shoes or something,” Frank said. “Are you sure you’re feelin’ better? Your eyes are dilated and rolling around like pinballs. I don’t want to wake up tomorrow and have it be all like it’s ‘Game Over’ for you. I don’t want to sleep in the same room with a dead body. It wouldn’t be good for my image.”
“It’s like I told Mrs. Irons, Frank,” Ben said (or so he told me later), “I’m fine. It was just a, um, bug I must have contacted from the, um, giant bugs. Can you imagine if I started to turn into one, just like in that story by the Kafka guy?”
“Yeah, that’s the one! Denise would drop me like a hot rock if I began to grow feelers out of the top of my head, and mandibles!”
“Nah, dude, she’d probably get into it, and it’d be the newest cool trend at Centralia High. Any guy who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, sprout feelers and mandibles would be an Untouchable!”Stubbs said.
And, maybe he was onto something, for whatever my brother did, it somehow ended up making him more popular and solidifying his role as the leader of the “Cool Brigade,” as they were called back then.
At the time all of this went down, I was fifteen, and a lowly sophomore, and my brother was seventeen and a senior, with the girls flocking to him as if he was the star football player. He always had a certain animal magnetism about him, but more about that, later. He was like the Alpha male lion at the top of the food chain, and I was like a groveling hyena to him, supposed to be more than satisfied with the scraps he left behind.
That night, the hunger was growing in Ben. However, his lusting after the flesh was not sexual in nature, but more like the craving for food that a bear awoken from hibernation feels. Unlike Yogi, though, no amount of picnic baskets would be able to satisfy his hunger, unless they were stocked with human body parts and brains. Even the host of That’s Bizarre, Anthony Zimmer, would probably turn up his nose at the sort of meal Ben was contemplating at that moment. So, he did the only wise thing he could think of doing: made up an excuse to put as much distance between himself and Frank as he could. The hotel maids’ lives were probably difficult enough without adding getting blood stains out of the carpet, the drapes, the bedspread, the everything, to their duties.
“Frank, man, feelin’ nauseous here—need to get some fresh air,” Ben said, heading towards the door. “I’ll be back soon, but don’t wait up or worry about me. I’m a big boy.”
“Dude, if whatever teacher who’s chosen to make the rounds notices you’re not here, you’re going to be in some big trouble,” Frank said.
“Yeah, well,” Ben said. “I guess he or she will just have to get over it. I won’t be gone too long. After all, I have to be rested for tomorrow’s list of scheduled activities and carb loading. I’ll try not to wake you when I come in.”
“I’m not good at making up excuses,” Frank said. “I suppose I could say something like you’re downstairs in the Exercise Room, but if someone checks—“
“I’m outa here. Later, Frank!” my brother said, leaving the room.
Somehow, Ben made it outside without slaughtering anyone in cold blood. He considered that to be a great accomplishment in itself, taking into account the intense cravings he was experiencing. There were no cops he could see anywhere, though there was no telling if there were any surveillance cameras pointed his way.
Lake Michigan would be an ideal place to dispose of any bodies, Ben mused to himself. Then, he shook his head, and muttered: “What sort of crazy thoughts am I thinking? Disposing bodies of my victims in Lake Michigan? Who do I think I am, Al Capone? Or, perhaps Dexter, or some unholy combination of the two?”
Pondering about how foolish he felt, and the insane direction his thoughts were taking him into, did not do anything to alleviate his insatiable hunger pangs. Also, his muttering to himself did nothing to put the only other person on the sidewalk, a young woman who looked like she was in her early twenties, at ease.
Ben wasn’t paying attention to where he was, and was barreling down the sidewalk directly towards the woman. Startled, believing she was about to become the victim of a mugging (or worse), the young lady stepped off of the sidewalk and into the path of a speeding electric hybrid car. The driver, more concerned with reducing his carbon footprint and saving his own butt than the life and welfare of the woman he’d ran over, kept on going as if he had done nothing worse than running over a squirrel.
My brother was filled with righteous indignation, but he was more filled with hunger. He checked her pulse first—he’d learned that from when he was a Boy Scout—and, finding none, he thought: “What the hell. I may be a cannibal, or I may be turning into a—zombie—but at least I’m not a killer. Not yet, anyway. But I’m sure I don’t have much time—the police or paramedics may be here soon—so, I’d better dig in while I can. But, I need to be careful, also, not to get any blood on my clothes, and to try to make my bites look like they’re just a part of the damage the car must have caused. Not that anyone’s likely to jump to the conclusion that after having died, someone decided to then dine on this young lady.”
And, dine is what Ben did, wanting to bury his entire face into the woman’s body, and suck out her brains with a straw, but showing a careful restraint, ripping big gobs of flesh from her stomach and then moving to her face. Next time, he thought, I need to bring a lobster bib, or something similar. Then, the inevitable distant sirens came to his ears, and my brother became the second person to flee the scene of the unfortunate accident.
Next time? Ben thought. There I go again, thinking crazy thoughts.
“Dude, you’ve been gone like an hour,” Frank Stubbs said, “and the shower woke me up, and I then go into the bathroom to take a piss and the floor’s covered with your wet clothes, stinking to high heaven. What gives, bro?”
“That stench,” Ben said, “would be the smell of Lake Michigan. Not the most polluted of the Great Lakes, but if you jump into almost any lake with all of your clothes on, you won’t come out smelling like a daisy.”
“You went swimming in Lake Michigan? In April, when the water’s still cold, and in the middle of the night? What were you trying to do, wash off evidence of some grisly crime, or something?” Frank asked, laughing at the ridiculousness of what he’d just said.
“I happen to be a very health conscious sort of guy,” Ben answered, “who was feeling like he was about to throw up his toenails, and thought that a brisk swim in Lake Michigan might be just what the doctor ordered to clear my head and stop my urge to purge.”
“Too much information, bro,” Frank said.
“You’re the one who asked. I’ll gather up my clothes in the morning, and put them in my empty duffle bag that I brought along for my dirty clothes. The morning will be here before you know it, though, so right now, I’m going to get some sleep.”
“That’s the most sensible thing I’ve heard you say all night. Maybe the swim in Lake Michigan really did clear your head.”
I didn’t really see my brother very much during that band trip. He was too busy with his own concerns, and I was busy with mine. Just an age difference of a couple of years can sometimes seem like an eternity, and can distance even close family members like brothers, especially once they hit their teen years. I suppose your brother becoming a zombie can do that, too, in some cases. Oddly enough, though, in some ways, Ben’s becoming a zombie brought us closer together. But, there were a few tough moments….
At home back in Centralia, Arkansas, everything was as it always had been. Mom and Dad suspected nothing, and I thought Ben had just been a little under the weather, and nothing more. Ben seemed like his usual self, though if we passed by the meat department in the supermarket, he liked to linger there in a rather creepy manner. Also, he had always liked his hamburgers and steaks medium well done, but when we returned, he insisted that they be barely browned at all. But, then again, Dad had always liked his steaks rare, and Mom sometimes ate raw hamburger meat, so they just thought that maybe his tastes were changing, and perhaps it was just a part of maturing into an adult.
They had no clue that it was really a part of transforming into a zombie.
Zombies, though, weren’t cool then. As I’ve mentioned, everything my brother did was cool, so even if they, or I, had some small inkling that Ben was exhibiting decidedly zombie-like tendencies (or, at the least, vampire-like ones), we probably figured that the changes had to be the result of anything else other than that he was becoming a full-fledged zombie. And, besides, didn’t zombies rise up out of graves? Weren’t they created by practitioners of voodoo, or hoodoo? Weren’t they mindless, shambling husks, more dead than living? And, didn’t they, like fish or relatives that have over-stayed their welcomes, begin to stink after a week’s time, max? And, zombies never, ever got the girls to fall all over them, though they did get them to sometimes trip and fall, the better to catch and eat.
There was no way, no how that my brother was becoming a zombie. You’d think that I, his own brother, his own flesh and blood, would know if he was undergoing such a drastic change before anyone else would, right? But, I didn’t even see it coming.
“Kyle,” Ben said later, “you probably didn’t see it coming because, well, being a zombie just wasn’t cool until I became one. It’s like the fad just wasn’t going to start, just wasn’t going to get off of the ground, until Fate gave me a big nudge and a wink, and said ‘You are a born trend-setter, lad. Zombies are the newest cool thang to set the world on fire, so a zombie you must become, even if it takes an alien peace-keeping mission gone horribly wrong to make you become one.’” And, who was I, I thought, to argue with such logic as that?
“Are you trying to tell me,” I asked, somewhat amused at the possibility, “that being a zombie is now suddenly cool? Is that what you’re asking me to swallow?”
“Well, after all,” Ben replied, “I’m a zombie, and I’m cool; ergo, now zombies are cool. I don’t really blame you—you just wouldn’t know what cool was even if it was a snake about to bite you.”
“A snake?” I said, stunned. “I believe I would know if there was a snake if front of me. It would be pretty obvious, wouldn’t it? It’d be either all coiled up, ready to strike, or it’d be slithering about on the floor, acting all snake-like—“
“Fine, Kyle,” Ben said. “so you know what a snake is. But, not what cool is, nor what sarcasm is—you’ve made that fairly apparent.”
“You’re a fine one to talk,” I said. “I probably know more about zombie factoids than anyone else I know, and I know that everyone knows that zombies are the living dead, and that they are only driven by hunger. It’s like an instinctual urge. They kind of lurk about, then BAM, they lunge at you when they get the chance. When they catch you, it’s pretty much a hit-or-miss proposition, unless they attack en masse, or a bunch of zombies have you surrounded. Then, you might as well just give up and face the inevitable fact that you’ll either become a zombie yourself, or get eaten. If that happens, then just your leftover bits and pieces will wiggle about, refusing to have the decency to lie still and accept death. Not a pleasant fate, and you, my brother, are not a zombie.”
“My brother, the idiot,” Ben said. “You may know most of the ways someone can become a zombie, and most of the so-called ‘facts’ about them. But, you know nothing about the type of zombie I am.”
“Oh?” I asked skeptically. “And what kind is that?”
“The kind created by alien-borne viruses, that’s what kind, idiota,” Ben said. “the kind I must have gotten when I shook hands with that Blaxon cockroach, or whatever sort of beetle he is, Major Slycon Glunk. So, you see, I am a zombie, whether you want to admit it or not. Still, I intend, my bro, to be the coolest zombie there ever was, so cool that everyone else will be wishing that they could be zombies, too. I’m going to change the entire world’s point of view about zombies.”
“What about the factoid that zombies are killing machines? Is that also untrue? What about them hungering for human flesh? Is that just the rumors people like Anderson Cooper tell the public on CNN?”
“Well, no,” Ben said, “those things are true. We’re scary fast and scary strong, and while the Blaxons never had any desire to take over the world, we do.”

Chapter Two
“Instant Fame Made Easy”
Despite my brother’s claim, I didn’t believe him for a second. Oh, I believed he believed he was a zombie, but I was used to his jumping from one fad or hobby to another, throwing his whole body and soul into it, and then dropping whatever it was usually within the space of a week. That had to be the way it was with Ben’s belief that he was a zombie. And, he was just trying to mess with me, get a rise out of me, with that overly dramatic statement about zombies wanting to take over the world. Even if there were such things as zombies, I reasoned, and even if their goal was to take over the world, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Instant fame wasn’t that easy, no matter what my brother might say to the contrary.
One question I hadn’t asked my brother is what, or who, he was eating. It was a question I definitely wanted to know the answer to, yet also definitely didn’t want to know the answer to, if you know what I mean. Other such questions included: If he was a zombie, who were his helpless victims? Did they suffer much? How many people has my big brother killed so far to satisfy his bizarre hunger, if he really was a zombie? Were the police hot on his trail, and did the tell-tale chain of evidence lead directly to our door? Was there a SWAT team, even now, outside our door, armed with shotguns to blast Ben’s head clean off of his shoulders? That was, after all, one of the better-known (and most assured) methods to kill a zombie.
The next day, the Centralia High School’s newspaper had an ad taken out in it that drew my rapt attention. Its headline proclaimed:
Fame, popularity, the ability
To attract the opposite sex: Do
You Want It All?
Then Try The Zombie Method
Satisfaction Guaranteed
Or Your Money Back
Only $9.99
Call: 555-0666

The phone number seemed oddly familiar. That was probably because it was my brother’s cell phone number!
I had to put a stop to Ben’s insane money-making scheme before it started. I would do it the only way I knew how to: by getting the parental units involved. But, I couldn’t do that until after school, and I was still only in my first period Home Room class, English. It was an American Lit course, and the book we were slogging through was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. It was difficult for me to pay attention, as my mind was on my brother’s twisted money-making (and, I feared, zombie-making) scheme to turn his affliction and his “Zombie Method” into a Get Rich Quick method.
Just how low can a person sink? I thought to myself. Then, I was abruptly snapped out of my reverie by Mrs. Slocomb’s grating and whiny voice calling my name:
“Kyle! Mr. Brooks! Earth to Kyle Brooks, come in, Kyle Brooks!” she said.
“Wha-wha-what?” I asked. “Is class over already?”
“No, Kyle—class is not over yet!” her Harpy-like tones assailed my ears, bombarding them like twenty-four-foot tall stereo loudspeakers of Doom. “It has barely even begun. With that kind of attitude, young man, the rest of the semester is going to seem ver-y long to you!”
“Oh, it already has seemed that to me, Mrs. Slocomb, ma’am,” I said. “This entire hour has seemed very long, actually.”
“As I said, it has barely begun. And now, it is your turn to read aloud, Mr. Brooks, and to rejoin the land of the living. We were on the part of the novel where the narrator, Nick Carroway, finally learns of how Jay Gatsby got his wealth, and becomes at least somewhat disillusioned by his knowledge. Knowledge does that sometimes, doesn’t it, Mr. Brooks?”
“Hmm…yes, I suppose it does, Mrs. Slocomb,” I replied, wondering if she was possibly somehow tuned into my thoughts about my big brother. Naw, that was just not possible!
“Begin with the first paragraph on page 107, please, Kyle,” my English teacher said.
“’And it was from Cody that he inherited money—a legacy of twenty-five thousand zombies–er—dollars’, I meant to say. ‘Zombie didn’t get it. Zombie never understood the legal device that was used against zombie but—‘” Laughter was erupting all around me. My cheeks flushed red in embarrassment.
“Mr. Kyle Brooks!” Mrs. Slocomb shouted. “Come to my desk this instant! You may think you’re being funny, but it’s not funny to disrupt an entire class and interfere with the education of others, and their appreciation of a classic American novel!”
“Not even a little funny?” I asked. I thought, hey, I’m already in trouble, I’d already crossed that invisible line, so why not infiltrate that enemy territory further? In retrospect, it was not my best idea ever, not one of my shining moments.
Yeah, well, watcha gonna do? The morning seemed to be going steadily downhill. I was never one to get into trouble, never one to buck authority. I had only my brother the zombie’s best interests at heart, and here I now was, the new Black Sheep of the family, on my way to Principal Don Delay’s office.
He was not one to waste time in idle banter, chat you up, nor delay; not Principal Delay. He was a stalwart soul, hardy of spirit, a no-nonsense sort of guy—all qualities that spelled Instant Infamy to anyone, like myself, who crossed his path. I had a definite feeling of imminent calamity about to befall me as I entered the office and sauntered to the secretary’s desk. And, wouldn’t you know it; Principal Delay was not in a conference, nor on the phone. There would be no delaying my encounter with Principal Delay.
“Ah, Mr. Kyle Brooks,” Principal Delay began, smiling a very crocodilian smile at me. “What brings you to my office today? It’s not the time of the year for the Yearbook pictures to be taken, that can’t be it. It’s not a matter related to the PTA or Honor Society, is it? I’ve got it! Your brother is in trouble and you’ve come to see me before he does, to try to get me in a good mood and not go so hard on him as I otherwise might. That’s it, isn’t it?”
“No, not really, Principal Delay, sir,” I said. “I’m afraid I’m here on my own behalf. Mrs. Slocomb sent me out of her room to see you because it’s her belief I was disrupting her class.”
“And, were you, Kyle? Disrupting her class, that is? Or was she somehow badly mistaken? Did you get into trouble for what someone else did, but that she is blaming you for, perhaps? You don’t want to get the other person in trouble, out of fear of retaliation for tattling on him or her? Come on, tell me the truth,” Principal Delay said. “I haven’t got all day, though it might appear that way, just because I’m not particularly busy right now.”
“Oh, there’s no denying that you are very busy, sir,” I said. “We were reading aloud from Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and somehow, I kept saying the word ‘zombie,’ whenever I should have instead said a pronoun, like ‘he’ or ‘his.’ I really don’t know what came over me, sir. I wasn’t intending to disrupt Mrs. Slocomb’s English class. In fact, I have enjoyed reading The Great Gatsby so far, and I like reading, in general. It was like a mysterious compulsion came over me, making me say things I didn’t really want to say, and do things I didn’t want to do. I have had zombies on my brain a lot lately, though.”
“Hah!” Principal Delay laughed. “Zombies on the brain! In movies, they eat brains, and here you are, thinking about them and blurting out the word ‘zombies’ at inappropriate times, when your own brain should be on your class work. Well, I actually believe what you’re telling me, Kyle; but, that doesn’t excuse your behavior, it just explains it.
“I’ll go easy on you, because this is the first time you’ve been sent to my office for any offense; but, I still need to punish your behavior. One day’s worth of detention, shall we say, today, for a half-hour after school. Just report to Room 111 Mr. Fergusson’s Shop Class, at 3:00. And, Mr. Brooks, try to make sure that you keep the subject of zombies off your brain while you should be paying attention to the subjects your teachers are trying to teach you.”
“Today?” I said, thinking that today was the worse day possible for me to serve detention. I needed, instead, to get home, have a heart-to-heart talk with my older brother, and convince him to stop his money-making scheme and, if he had any ideas about turning his fellow classmates into zombies, to take the advice of The Sopranos from TV and “Forget about it!” If he wouldn’t listen to me, I’d have to spill the beans to Mom and Dad.
“Yes, ‘today,’” Principal Delay said, wondering why I was still in his office, and questioning the words he’d handed down to me as if he’d been given them in a moment of divine inspiration from atop the Sacred Mount. “Would you rather try for two days? No? Then take this pass back to your next class, and get outa here! I hope that in the future, you will only come to this office because you’ve been sent here on school business, and not because you’ve been a discipline problem.”
“Yes, sir,” I replied, backing out of his office with the pass he’d handed to me. “Room 111 at 3:00; I’ll be there, sir.”
“See that you are. Have a good day, Kyle,” he said, then looked back down at the papers on his desk, having dismissed me.
I then walked slowly to my second period class, Mrs. Angle’s Advanced Geometry, after first stopping at my locker to pick up the textbook for her course.
Somehow, I got through my other classes of the day without another repeat of my uncontrollably blurting out the word “zombies” as I had done in my Home Room English class. I relied on Ben for transportation, so I had to tell him in the parking lot before I went for Detention that I needed him to stick around until 3:30 because Mrs. Slocomb had sent me to Principal Delay’s office.
“You, Mr. Goody Two-Shoes, got sent to Delay’s office?” Ben asked, incredulously. “Maybe there’s hope for you yet, bro. Maybe you’ve got at least a speck of coolness inside of you, struggling to surface. All I need to do is to help you bring it out.”
“Oh, no,” I said. “One day’s worth of Detention is more than enough for me, thank you very much.
“Anyway,” I added, “I’ve got to get to Shop Class, and spend the next half-hour with the Ferg-Man. I’ll see you in thirty!”
There I was, surrounded on every side by Centralia High’s Who’s Who of delinquents. I’d grabbed The Great Gatsby to read ahead, and a couple of other textbooks I needed to do homework in when I got home, and I was trying to make the best of a bad situation by spending the thirty minutes constructively, by doing my homework. Getting good grades was important to me, and besides, it helped keep Mom and Dad off my back. Maybe getting a little ahead in my classes would prevent my parents getting too angry at me for getting Detention—that was my hope, anyway. I crossed my fingers that I wasn’t deluding myself.
I heard whispered talking around me. I thought that was not very unusual; it happened in every class, every day; of course, it would happen in Detention, as well. But, then I began to listen to what was being said. Brandon Taylor and Calvin Smith were nodding their heads and pointing towards me.
I didn’t hear everything they said, but they were talking about my brother, also, and how he’d changed since the band trip. And, they talked about the ad in today’s school newspaper.
“There he is, the zombie’s bro,” Brandon said, under his breath. “What’s a nerd like him doing here?”
“I was in the same American Lit class, Old Mrs. Slocomb’s, when it happened,” Calvin said. “Slocomb asked him to read, and he just freaked, saying ‘Zombie this, and Zombie that,’ instead of what was really in the book. I think it was some book called The Great Fatsby, or something like that.”
“Cal,” Brandon said, “you must mean The Great Gatsby.” This impressed me, in spite of myself. One of the high school’s most notorious bullies knew the correct title of the book I was reading. Will wonders never cease, I thought.
“Yeah, whatever. The point is he got sent to the principal’s office. Maybe some of his brother’s coolness is rubbing off on him,” Calvin whispered. “Maybe what Ben said to us about the Zombie Method really works. It’s guaranteed; maybe we ought to give it a try.”
“But we’re already cool, so what do we need with it, Cal?”Brandon asked.
“You can never be too cool. Hey, if it helps in the Love Life department, I say it’s worth the ten bucks. If it doesn’t work, and he refuses to refund my money, I can always get the fun of beating him up, at least,” Cal said.
“When you put it that way,” Brandon said, “why not? If the Zombie Method to give someone instant fame can even work for Ben’s brother, Kyle, there’s no tellin’ what it’ll do for us.”
Crap. Things seemed to be going steadily out of control, from bad to worse. If I didn’t convince Ben to shut his newly created business down, he might get in trouble from the school, our parents, and the law. He might mean by the “Zombie Method,” that he would bite chunks of flesh from whomever paid him the $9.99, enough to satisfy his perverse appetite, and in turn, cause them to change into zombies like himself (though slightly nibbled on ones).
Yet if I did talk him into forgetting about his mad money-making scheme, that would piss off everyone who might have already paid him money. They were expecting to become cool; they were expecting, as Ben had advertised: “Instant Fame Made Easy.” At best, they would simply demand their money back, and Ben would be forced to hand it over. At worse, my brother would have spent the money already, and he would get beaten up by those he’d cheated out of their money, and I would also get beaten up, just because he was my bro and we shared the same last name. Talk about a no-win situation….
The drive home to our house at 1776 Washington St. was tense. As we were going down the road in his used but cherry black Trans-Am, I brought up the subject of having read the ad in the school newspaper. He tried to brush it off, and downplay any potentially bad outcome.
“I have a fool-proof method here, Kyle,” Ben insisted. “It will work. I will make it work. As long as you or no one else rats on me, I’ll make a pot full of money. Mom and Dad don’t have to be the wiser. We won’t get beaten up because I will succeed, and besides, I’m much stronger than I used to be, so if anyone tries anything, it won’t be us that is getting beaten up—it’ll be them. The Norms. The UnChanged. The UnCool.
“And, Kyle, here’s the really important part, the beauty part, which I didn’t want to tell you until the Zombie Method had made me loads of money. I know how much you want to go to college, and how you’ve been worried that maybe Mom and Dad couldn’t afford to send you there. I know how you’ve been busting your hump and studyin’ trying to earn a full scholarship so our folks won’t have to struggle to come up with the money needed to pay for your tuition if you don’t manage to earn a full scholarship.
“I was going to set aside a quarter of all the money I made, that’s right, 25%, and then give it to you as a surprise whenever you got the letter sayin’ you’d been accepted into whatever college it is you want to go to after you graduate from Centralia High. I won’t lie; I’m not doin’ this entirely for you, though you’re my bro—but, I do want to see you get the chance to go to college, if that’s what you want to do with your life.”
“I don’t know what to say,” I said.
“How about sayin’ that we’ll be partners, partner,” Ben said. “But it means you can’t tell anyone about our deal. Not Mom, Dad, or any other adult. Do you agree? Do we have a deal?”
My brother could be mighty persuasive when he wanted to be. Though it made me uncomfortable to the very bone about the wrongness and craziness of the whole scheme, and my role in it, I stuttered my agreement.”D-D-Deal.”
“That’s the Kyle I know. You are really going to go places, bro,” Ben said. “Go places and do things and make something of your life. And you just might end up being a little bit cooler, too. And don’t worry, if you are—I have no plans to bite you, and turn you into a zombie.”
“You don’t?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “For one, it’s just gross to think about biting my own brother. For another, it wouldn’t be that great of a business decision to zombify the person you’re askin’ to be your business partner, now would it?”
I’d gone from wanting to give my brother the zombie a stern talking to, to agreeing to be his business partner in the space of five minutes. I had the feeling that I’d be taken in by the cheesiest sales pitch from the sleaziest used car dealer whenever I got old enough and money enough to buy a car. My firm resolve had melted like a popsicle on a hot August day. What would Ben have me doing next, sell T-shirts from a stand in Centralia High’s hallways with “I Was Bitten By A Zombie And I Liked It,” written on them?

Chapter Three
“Don’t Give a Sucker An Even Break”
“It’s a simple matter of salesmanship, bro,” Ben said to me. “You’re gonna be the poster boy for the Zombie Method, the lure for the masses, the stink bait for the masses of catfish we’re gonna reel in, the manure for the—“
“Hey, hey! Let’s not get too personal! You’ve already compared me to stink bait, which is bad enough—but manure?” I asked. “Isn’t the Zombie Method supposed to make people cooler, not stinkier?”
“Yes, and it does, Kyle,” Ben said. “But who’s better as a Before Zombie Method poster boy than you? And, it’ll make the After Zombie Method results look even more impressive to our potential suckers—er—clients.”
“If it works so well,” I said, “then why call our clients ‘suckers’?”
“Oh, ye of little faith—now, where have I heard that expression before? Never mind; I was just thinking of a famous saying of the black-and-white comedian W.C. Fields, ‘Never give a sucker an even break.’ Of course, I didn’t really mean that our clients are ‘suckers’—what would give you that silly impression?”
“Why, you gave me ‘that silly impression,’ that’s who,” I said, “probably when you called our clients ‘suckers’.”
“Let’s not split hairs here, and argue who called whom ‘suckers,’” my brother said. “The point is, one of the best sales tactics there is involves showing suck–clients—how well a product works by showing them an example of the outcome of using said product. That example, bro, will be you.”
“Let’s say for argument’s sake that I agree to be your ‘example,’” I said, “what would you plan to do with me to convince people that your Zombie Method actually works, and is on the level? Remember, nothing that requires me to get bitten by you or anything or one else!”
“Relax, Kyle! Geez, you whine more than our neighbor’s Chihuahua, dude!” Ben said. “I already told you; you’re safe from me; I’m not going to bite you; we’ll get you a couple of concert T-shirts, hair gel, stylin’ tennis shoes, squirt you with some Zombie Extract, so you’ll be irresistible to the fairer sex–”
“Hold on, hold on!” I said. “Watcha mean, ‘squirt you with some Zombie Extract’? Just what are the ingredients to this stuff? Is it approved by the FDA? How do I know it’s hypoallergenic, or doesn’t cause cancer?”
“Trust me, bro.” Ben said. “It’s an all-natural, very Green formula. It isn’t technically approved by the FDA, whoever they are—what are they, a bunch of scientists in some secret government facility?”
“They’re not that; the initials stand for the Food and Drug Administration.” I answered my brother. “They tell us what’s safe to use, except for slip-ups, like with Phen-Phen, or Restilax, which was supposed to relieve the symptoms of people with the Crazy Leg Syndrome, but which actually caused severe stomach cramps. It was later remarketed as a cure for constipation, and made the company, PleasureX Industries, beaucoup dollars. Don’t you listen to CNN or read the newspapers?”
“As little as possible,” Ben replied. “Zombie Extract, to answer your question is a special formulation I developed that is the whole key to our success, Kyle. It is made from various herbs, quality H2O, fruit extracts I got at the Gorgon’s Head Natural Health Food Shoppe downtown to give it a pleasant odor, and zombie pheromones made from my own—“
“Don’t say it; don’t say your own sweat, don’t say it!” I said.
“From my own perspiration,” Ben said. “just like the perfume that used to be made in the times of the ancient Roman gladiators, K-Man. Groupies would buy up bottles of the gladiators’ sweat by the cartload, to attract the man or woman of their dreams.
“Hmm…K-Man—that could be a great nickname for you, another good way to increase your popularity, Kyle,” my brother continued, “not that you’ll need anything besides a daily squirt from a bottle like this one here, which just so happens to have my picture on its label.”
“Where do you get the ‘perspiration’? Your armpits?” I asked. “No, wait—don’t tell me—I don’t think I really want to know the answer to that. But, what makes you think that people will want to spray that stuff all over their bodies? What makes you think that I want to spray it all over my body?”
“Oh, you’ll do it,” Ben said, “for the Instant Fame, and for the hot bods that are sure to follow you. You’ll have as many followers as Ashton Kutcher after you use this for a week, Kyle. That’s why you will want to use it. And of course, think of attending the college, of driving fancy sports cars, holding hands and pressing lips with actual girls…”
“I’ve held hands with girls before!” I indignantly said.
“Helping elderly ladies cross the street doesn’t count, Kyle.”
“I’ve held hand with more females than those, Ben!” I said. “Oh, fork over the bottle—I will try anything once—but, if it starts to burn my skin—“
“It’s not going to burn your skin, Kyle! Just try it, and stop complaining!”
So I did. I tried it, and it did not burn my skin off. It tingled a bit, but my brother said that was what it was supposed to do; it just meant that it was working its magic on me, that its special mojo was interacting with my piss poor mojo, and counteracting it. And, it did not smell like sweaty gym socks or armpits, which I’d feared. It actually smelled pretty nice, kind of like apple shampoo, not that I usually use apple shampoo or anything. I hoped that it would work like Ben claimed it would, but I wasn’t about to hold my breath.
Zombie Extract just might be the next Big Thing, I found myself thinking, if my brother was correct and it actually did attract the opposite sex. I felt like cruising the Centralia Mall, or even—gag—like going to school, just to (you understand) check out whether or not heads would turn when they got close enough to me to inhale a whiff of the magical Zombie Extract. Could it be that my brother really had hit on a Get-Rich Quick scheme that really worked? Would Instant Fame & Fortune be his, and by extension, mine?
The following day at school, I exuded a brand-new confidence. I had on a Maroon 5 T-shirt, and walking down the hallways, I had moves that Mick Jagger would have been jealous of, if he’d seen me. Heads definitely turned as I strolled by, and this time, not because my fly was down, like that oh-so-embarrassing moment back in ninth grade when I didn’t notice it for half the day, but wondered why I was getting a definite chill below the belt. At the mall, the female cashiers had seemed more pleasant, flirting with me and my zombie brother; but, then I wasn’t sure if it was just him that drew their attention, or if I had played a part in it, also. Now, I knew for sure: the Zombie Extract was some potent stuff, like sexual lightning in a bottle.
“Nice tennis shoes,” Adele Morgan, one of the cutest cheerleaders at Centralia High, said as we passed each other, “and are those new designer jeans?”
“Why, yes, they are.” I said. “Thanks for noticing. Maybe we can hang out with each other this Saturday, maybe take in a movie?” Please, please, please, say yes! I was thinking to myself. I hoped she didn’t notice how nervous I felt.
“Yeah, sure, why not?” she said, then quickly jotted her cell phone number on a scrap of paper, and handed it to me, saying “Catch you later! I gotta get to my Latin class before I’m late! See you, Kyle!”
“See you later, Adele!” I said. She actually knew my name! I thought I was too unimportant or ordinary or geeky for her to pay any attention to; but, I thought as I beat the buzzer and plopped into a seat in my English class, maybe I was wrong. Or, maybe the apple-scented Zombie Extract was what made her suddenly pay attention to me. I was fifty percent sure that I was one hundred percent sure that it was the Zombie Extract that had transformed me into a babe magnet.
In Mrs. Slocomb’s English class, all heads turned my way. But, that was probably because I had started to sweat profusely, and I had a sudden attack of stomach cramps that twisted and churned my guts like kids at Halloween ripping out the innards of pumpkins to make them into Jack-O’Lanterns
I ran to the restrooms, doubled over, without bothering to slow down and asking for permission, and barely made it there before the projectile puking commenced. That would have really impressed the ladies. Fortunately, I hadn’t got any vomit on my clothes or new tennis shoes, but my breath smelled rank. I rinsed my mouth in the sink (like that would really help) then grabbed my Tic-Tacs from my front pants pocket and crammed them into my cheeks until a looked like a chipmunk. Then, head lowered, hoping I wouldn’t be busted for being in the halls between classes without a pass, I headed back to Mrs. Slocomb’s class.
I was thinking that this would be two days in a row I was going to wind up in Principal Delay’s office and then detention, and I was feeling sorry for myself, and still sick to my stomach. And, there was another urge I was experiencing, that I couldn’t place my finger on; I was feeling so empty, so drained, so…hungry. Hungry for…flesh, for a delicious platter full of brains, maybe with some Nacho Cheese sauce—oh, yeah, that’s what the Kyle-ster wants!
What was I thinking? Where did those thoughts come from? Those were more the kind of thoughts that, well, my brother the zombie told me he’d thought. The urgings and cravings I felt were—his. What was happening to me?
Then it came to me, the horrifying realization that I was becoming like my brother Ben, probably because of the Zombie Extract! I had learned that people could catch certain diseases through the transmission of bodily fluids, but it just hadn’t occurred to me when I sprayed myself with the Zombie Extract that by doing so I might infect myself with whatever alien virus that had caused my brother to become a zombie. The active virus must have seeped its way through my pores into my system, into my blood.
But, I vowed I would fight the urges. I would not give in. I would not eat human flesh like my brother did. I would not be a part of any plan to spread the cult of Zombieism that my brother was attempting to cultivate through his totally screwed-up invention, Zombie Extract.
“Don’t give a sucker an even break, Kyle. Never give a sucker an even break.” Ben’s words kept running through my brain, infiltrating my thoughts, taking control over me. I was like the character of Jack Nicholson in The Shining—by spraying the Zombie Extract on myself, it was like I had listened to the creepy twin girls in the corridors of the Overlook Hotel who said: “Be one of us, be one of us…forever and ever, and ever.”
Mrs. Slocomb took one look at me, and said “You poor dear!” Maybe the animal magnetism that was the one good thing about the Zombie Extract’s effects was still at work. Maybe it was just because I looked as sick as a dog. She continued: “Here; take this pass and go to the school nurse’s office right away, Kyle. I was about to hand out a quiz, but you can retake it when you feel better.”
“Thanks,” I said to Mrs. Slocomb. “I don’t know what came over me. It must be a, um, bug. My brother had it a while ago, and—“
“Well, we wouldn’t want you to turn into a zombie like him, now would we?” she asked as I was almost out the door.
“What was that? A what?” I asked, refusing to believe my ears.
“A zombie, Kyle,” Mrs. Slocomb said. “Oh, I’m just teasing you. I’m sure you’ve heard the ludicrous rumors that have been floating around that your brother is a zombie. I’m just messing with you. Everybody knows that zombies aren’t real, Kyle. You didn’t think I was being actually serious, did you?”
“Uh no, ha, ha,” I said. “Of course not. Like you said, everyone knows zombies aren’t real. I’d better get to the nurse’s office. See you tomorrow, Mrs. Slocomb!”
I guess I couldn’t escape my fate. I was doomed to follow in my brother’s footsteps. I was destined to become a zombie just like him.
After the Blaxons first landed on Earth, there were rumors, of course (just like the “rumors” that Mrs. Slocomb had heard about my brother), about zombies that walked the land, zombies that were somehow linked to our would-be alien friends. Many people believed that the Blaxons brought the zombie curse with them. Other people, and scientists, vociferously stated the impossibility of that idea.
“It’s just another wild conspiracy theory,” said Attorney General Lamar Romero. “There’re no such things as zombies,” he said to the American people. “I’d stake my life on it.” And he did.
He was some months later tied to a wooden stake outside of huge but hastily-constructed wooden gates that his city’s inhabitants had erected, at the height of the Zombie Epidemic. Attorney General Lamar Romero was torn to pieces, eaten alive by a pack of roaming zombies. That was the type of revenge that was enacted by the populace upon scientists, doctors, and other people in authority, like politicians, that lied to them (whether knowingly or not) during those days.
But such things were hushed up, as best as the government could manage, even when famous people like the Attorney General were involved. Witnesses disappeared; people were paid off; what was the truth became called “the crazy speculation of extremist rednecks,” or of “right-wing religious fanatics.” New media “talking heads” replaced the old ones.
There were stories of Blaxon spaceships being swarmed by men with shotguns, or blasted from the skies by heat-seeking missiles, to come crashing down to Earth as giant fireballs. Men with cans of Raid aimed them at any Blaxons they saw, and killed them dead. And then, even the Blaxons had enough, and eventually they retaliated. But, I am getting ahead of myself by several years. All of this happened in the era when zombies were once again no longer thought of as being “cool.” But, they once were…I and my brother are proof of that.
“Ben,” I said on our way home after school, “we need to stop selling your Zombie Extract. We need to find all of the bottles you’ve already sold and gather them together and set fire to them. They must be destroyed!”
“What are you talking about, Kyle?” Ben asked. “You seemed fine with being the Zombie Poster Boy yesterday. What’s changed your mind?”
“I was never really ‘fine’ with it,” I said. “I just got my mind clouded up with ideas of wealth, and college, and other things I could do with the money if the Zombie Extract worked and your money-making scheme really succeeded.”
“Yeah, and it is succeeding, Kyle,” Ben said. “It’s succeeding like a charm. I’ve sold all of the bottles I had already. I was thinking of lifting weights when we get home, to really get the sweat flowin’, so we can have more Zombie Extract to sell tomorrow.”
Oh, no,” I said. “That just can’t happen, Ben. That stuff works, but I think it’s changing me into a zombie, just like you. Instead of selling more of the Zombie Extract and spreading the virus, we need to figure out a way to cure it, and prevent the spread of Zombieism.”
“What about the Instant Fame? What about the girls? What about the piles of money, and going to college? What about the girls?” Ben asked me.
“You said ‘What about the girls,’ twice,” I said.
“Yeah, but it bears repeating. I was tryin’ to do you a favor, a solid. What’s wrong with the world when an older brother can’t help out his younger brother?”
“Help me by turning me into a flesh-eating zombie, like—“ I said.
“Like me, you mean?” Ben asked.
“I was going to say, like the ones in ‘Night of the Living Dead.’”
“You’re my bro, bro,” Ben said. “I may not like giving suckers even breaks, but I was honestly just tryin’ to do what’s best for you. At least, best in the long run.”
“What do mean, the ‘long run’? I asked.”How’s being a zombie any better in the long run? Zombies are zombies, after all.”
“Ah-ha!” Ben said. “They’re not at all the same, Kyle. And, you just asked the most important question of your new life as a zombie, whether or not you realize it.”

If you’re a fan of tales of the macabre, and you dig reading Edgar Allan Poe’s stories, then you will also want to check out Frank G. Poe’s collection of tales and poems titled Raven Wings and 13 More Twisted Tales for the low price of $10.95 for the paperback edition. If you click on the title, you’ll be taken to Amazon where you can purchase the book. Elsewhere at this site, I reviewed the second book of Poe’s tales, Star Child and 13 More Twisted Tales, which is another page-turning collection of delightfully twisted tales and poems.

What do you get when you buy this book? Is it one worth your money, one that would make a great addition to your personal library? As with Star Child, in the introduction, Frank relates some details about his past, and his near-death experience as a result of his MS, which blinded him temporarily, as well. He battled back from being bedridden, and then in a wheelchair, to currently, when he can walk with the use of a cane. Frank can trace in his lineage as one of his ancestors the famous author, Edgar Allan Poe, and he relates in his introduction that he is actually Poe reincarnated. Whether this is true or not, you can decide for yourselves; but, the tales are fascinating gems which Poe might, if he were alive today, have written.

Does this mean there are poems similar to “The Raven,” or “Lenore” in this collection? Or, stories like “The Masque of the Red Death,” or “The Pit and the Pendulum”? No, but Edgar used an archaic way of expressing himself, to help build the atmospheric mood of his writing. I would imagine if Edgar was alive today, he would write in the vernacular of this age, and perhaps go for shock value to attract the attention of his audience, as Frank does; so, is Frank Poe the reincarnation of Edgar? I’ll just say his short stories and poems are good in themselves; the Edgar Allan Poe connection certainly can’t hurt his own chances at garnishing fame & fortune.

As the title suggests, you get fourteen short stories in this collection: “Raven Wings” and 13 more. And, you get to read 6 twisted poems that Frank has penned for your reading enjoyment. I will only touch on a few of these, to give you an idea what subjects are included in this collection. They’re all good, though, and I’d say worth your time and money. A couple of reviewers mentioned they found some of the tales to be “lewd” and “crude,” and they are, to a degree; but, they are relatively tame compared to many other short stories/novels I’ve read. Controversy and shock–Edgar was known for it–so, Frank shouldn’t, IMO, be overly criticized for doing it himself. Stephen King’s short stories, for example, are often much more violent, lewd, and crude, but are still–generally speaking–very cool, fun tales to read.

The cover of Raven Wings is kind of odd in itself, and I wondered what it was depicting until I read the first story, “Raven Wings”. It’s a tale of a Goth girl who gets into masochism, like having hot melted wax dripped on her body during sex, etc. The only way she can experience pleasure is through pain, and when she cries, and her mascara runs, the result resembles raven’s wings. She eventaully requests that the narrator of the tale chokes her out; and, who is he to refuse? The trouble is, it’s kind of difficult to know when enough’s enough when it comes to choking someone….

“The Spider and the Fly,” is a captivating tale of tangled webs, love, sex, and capturing prey. What happens when a male spider realizes what his fate will be, but still desires to have sex with a female spider? Is there a way to satisfy his urges and live to have sex another day? Perhaps a fly called Sushi will enlighten the spider Domino on the secret to sexual happiness–or, is he doomed to lose his head?

“New Vampire bible: Genesis II” is a quirky little gem about the origins of vampires upon the Earth. It’s a retelling of part of Genesis, and the relationship Adam had with his supposed first wife, Lilith. In the tale, it’s a relationship sanctioned by God, that resulted in the creation of the first “sanguine” vampires–ones which drank blood. The humans that resulted from Adam’s and Eve’s couplings were also vampires, but “pyschic” ones. Due to a terrible apocalyptic war, the Vampire Nathan’s coffin gets filled with blood, he manages to break out of his coffin, and discovers that he is one of the last living beings on Earth. Some will find this tale to be sacreligious, as it refers to God as the “Great Vampire” and mentions Christ’s vampiric heritage; it’s still a fascinating story, however you might feel about this retelling of Genesis, incorporated into a tale of Christ’s Second Coming.

I’ll briefly talk about three of the poems. The second poem in this collection (the first being “Modern Day Ghost”) is called “Card” and is about credit cards and how they are ruining the lives of many people who abuse them. It also gets into America’s international debt crisis, and how Americans have been told that spending helps by “Stimulating the economy.” Frank often includes pop culture references in his tales and poems, and this one is no different: in it, he mentions Conan the Destroyer, Don Knotts, and George Bush.

“Cosmic Butterflies,” uses the metaphor of butterflies having been transformed from caterpillars to describes how humans are similar, in that we experience a second, spiritual existence and transformation after we die. One line I liked in this brief poem is: We don’t begin to live until we die,/And transform into Cosmic Butterflies.”

The last poem I’ll discuss is “The Rocker Squeaks”. It’s a poem about a father rocking his newborn baby, but as with all good poetry, it’s more than that. The imagery Poe uses is very expressive, and he paints a picture with his words of ripening papaws that raccoon will: slip/Into their watering mouths. It’s another poem that involves transformation, as poe writes that the father’s: callous hands transform/Into velvety butterfly wings/By touching the infant’s cushiony skin.

Raven Wings and 13 More Twisted Tales by Frank G. Poe is a collection of macabre tales and poems I’d recommend to anyone who loves reading suspenseful, quirky tales. They will attract your attention, and hold you spellbound. It’s a collection of tales and poems you’ll want to add to your reading lists.

I have just published my 3rd. ebook, My Brother the Zombie (The Zombie Revolution Book One)! If you click on the title, you can purchase the ebook for just $2.99! It is the story of the teens, Kyle, his girlfriend, Adele, and Kyle’s older brother–the brother and zombie of the title–as they face a very uncertain future in the midst of a zombie apocalpyse.

It is a page-turning, exciting novel about the arrival of the giant, bug-like Blaxons from the Sirius galaxy who arrive on Earth on a peace-keeping mission. They indavertently bring with them a terrible virus, though, that turns people into flesh-eating zombies. When the first emissaries are killed because humans are understandably enraged at the effects the virus has on people, the Blaxons take revenge on the Earth by waging war against them.

Can Kyle and Adele hope to find love in a hopeless place? There is plenty of blood, gore, zombies, aliens, a touch of romance, and–did I say it already–ZOMBIES? It’s a YA ebook that straddles three genres successfully: Horror, SF, and Romance. Check it out today!!!

Even today, long after his death, Edgar Allan Poe is recognized as a master of horror and the macabre. A movie’s coming out soon, The Raven, based on his tales & poems, starring John Cusack. Now, a new master of horror has surfaced, a distant relative of Edgar’s: Frank G. Poe, Jr. He may even be, if the stories about him are true, Edgar reincarnated to walk this Earth and write further spellbinding imaginings of the intellect. His first collection of tales, Raven Wings and 13 More Twisted Tales I will also review here, in the coming weeks; but, as Star Child is just out, I will review it first.

What can you expect from Star Child? The original Poe’s boots would be difficult for anyone to fil, as any legend is always difficult to live up to and match. I’d say, for starters, don’t expect Edgar’s old-fashioned uses of words that are rapidly fading from general usage. But that’s okay–it certainly worked for Edgar, but it would seem archaic for anyone to try to write mimicking Edgar’s style. If he was reborn, undoubtedly he’d be a man of his times, as he was then, and use current turns of phrases.

Ultimately, Frank G. Poe Jr.’s tales succeed because of his own talent, wherever it might originate from, and he deserves all the credit or blame for however the tales have turned out. But, the good news is, the tales collected in Star Child are very well-written, and I believe Edgar would be proud to know someone in his lineage has taken up the torch and is continuing to attract a wide audience to the horror genre. I can’t do justice to the entire collection by discussing each of the tales in much detail, as that would take at least one paragraph apiece; but, I will touch on a few of the stories that stood out as highlights to me.

I’ll begin from the beginning, with a tale with the very cheery title “Because They Eat Children.” Alexander Popovich is an extremely dedicated and protective fourth grade teacher, who gets a bit carried away with thinking he needs to watch over his young flock. He tells them anecdotes of children being eaten by evil people, and even by their own parents, in times of dire famine, or because they have developed a perverse taste for human flesh. He means only to make the children aware of the dangerous world around them so they can better be on guard. But, word gets back to the parents of the children, and things start to go very downhill for Alexander from there on. If only poor Alexander was taken more seriously…but why cry over spilt blood?

The second story is an homage to The Lord of the Rings. “Tolkien Revisited,” shows Poe’s interest in and love of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings novels. In the tale, Frodo, Gandalf, and the rest of the band stop at a roadside inn on their way home from their adventures and the destruction of the ring. They relate their adventures to the innkeeper, who happens to be Tolkien. The innkeeper thinks he can spice their story up, and he invents new characters, such as Gollum/Smeagle, and he changes/adds details. When he tells the new version back to the adventurers, they are spellbound–indeed, the innkeeper has vastly improved the tale. But, at what cost?

“The Blue Knight’s Tale,” is the third tale of the collection.
It’s a story of modern-day knights, jousting on a–ahem–nightly basis at a Medieval Tournament and Feast resaurant. There is, of course, a Lady Fair, as well, Kitty. She is engaged to be married to the Black Knight, her current boyfriend, Stephen. Austin, the Blue Knight, used to have a “puppy love,” for Kitty, but that ended badly after their senior prom. Still retaining his boyishly good looks, Austin has recovered from his puppy love, with semingly every female in the audience anxious to make him their next mark on their lipstick cases. Or, has he fully recovered? What happens when their old romantic is rekindled? Find out the shattering result when you check the story out for yourselves!

Before I mention a couple of other tales, I would be remiss if I didn’t relate that Frank, like Edgar, writes poetry as well as short stories. He has three poems in the collection “Holocaust,” “Melancholy and the Internet Madness,” and “Contact.” “Holocaust,” is, as you’ve likely guessed (being the astute people that you are), about the Holocaust and our reactions to it, including those of naysayers. The second poem, “Melancholy and the Internet Madness,” is about the obsession of many people with the Internet in general and social media in particular. One begins to feel sometimes filled with a self-importance based on Likes, Follows, etc., that is unrealistic. The obsession is like a form of madness at times. Finally, “Contact,” is about Stephen Hawkings and his fear that our first contact with aliens might well prove to be our last. Poe has a very different take on the ensuing result, though, in the last of a very imaginative and thought-provoking trio of poems.

I’ll briefly mention two of the other tales in Star Child to give you a further taste of the menage of genres and stories that await you. These two tales are the title one, “Star Child The Discovery,” and “After the Apocalypse.”

“Star Child” is another foray into the science fiction genre by Frank, and it’s an engrossing and brilliant gem of a short story. An artifact from an alien civilization is discovered–and, though the dig team is sworn to secrecy by the federal government, they feel that the information they’ve discovered is too important for the public to not learn about. But, they also don’t want to get into legal trouble, so they decide to make a “fictional” account of the whole story available to everyone and the names of those involved will be changed. Though it’s walking a fine line, they feel it’s worth the potential risk. But, is it, really; and, will the public even benefit at all from what they read, if they believe it to be fictional?

The last tale I’ll discuss is “After the Apocalypse.” Based in part from an old Appalachian saying, “Root hog or die,” this is one of my favorite (of many) in Frank G. Poe Jr.’s collection. Then again, how could I NOT like it, as one of the main characters is named Lilly, which is our family “dog’s” name, though ours is spelled with only two l’s? Lilly’s Granny Sugar is the propagator of the saying, and living through the Great Depression as she did, she demanded her daughter, Rose, to learn survival skills from childhood on. Lilly compares this brutal sort of existence to the scenario of Lord of the Flies, and there is at least some truth to that. Since Granny Sugar comes from Pike County, Kentucky, where the McCoy clan (of the infamous Hatfield/McCoy feud) lived, it’s not much of a wonder that she believed in the philosophy of: “When society breaks down only the strong survive, root hog or die.”

This and some of the other tales, though they’re fascinating reading, contain some language that makes the collection more suitable for older teens and adults than younger children. I suspect that back in the time when Edgar wrote his poems and stories, many people found them morally offensive, as well, though now they’re generally considered to be fairly tame in comparison with even what children see on the Nightly News. Perhaps this collection will porve to seem tame to future generations. Don’t get me wrong; Poe is never explicit, and he only uses adult language at times because it’s warranted by the subject matter of his tales and to make the characters who speak the words more realistic. Right or wrong, most of us use four-letter words on a daily basis, so I, personally, wasn’t offended at all by any of the tales in Star Child.

If you are a fan of Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King, or Frank G. Poe’s first collection of macabre tales, Star Child is a Must Read! And, if you love the horror, fantasy, and SF genres, I would also recommend this fine selection of quirky tales to you. I look forward with great anticipation to reading more from Frank in the coming years, and to reviewing his first collection in a couple of weeks or so.

What first attracted me to this fantastic collection of prose & verse by the talented author Linda Addison was the very cool cover. I admit, I was drawn in by the eye candy–at least, eye candy for a person who loves the horror genre. Am I shallow? Aren’t we all, at times? Was I right to judge a book by its cover? Perhaps not; but, in this particular example, the contents of the book do match up in excellence with its cover. Maybe I just got lucky…you will, too, if you read How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend (A Collection of Prose & Verse) from Linda Addison and Necon Ebooks for just $4.99! You can also purchase the ebook from Amazon for your Kindle for the same price by clicking here.

Linda is the first African American to win the coveted Bram Stoker Award for horror fiction. She is a rising star in horror fiction, and the short stories and poetry in this collection displays her ability to translate the macabre to the written word extremely well. There are 35 tales & poems in the volume altogether, and though they are short, each packs a powerful wollop. Combined, they will keep you awake at night, and make you nervously glance towrds your closet door and look under your bed for the Boogie Man or some other horrors, like the ones her tales depict in gory detail.

I won’t write about each story and poem in this volume–it would take too long to do them all justice–but I will touch on a few of the poems & stories that I considered to be highlights. They are all great; but, I will limit myself to just a handful.

There are, if I counted right, 16 poems and 29 short stories for your reading pleasure. The poems and tales also include some from the science fiction genre. Some of the stories could classify as being Flash Fiction, not being much more than maybe three hundred words in length. It takes skill to be able to write a story with a beginning, middle, and end in such a short number of words. They, and the poems, helped break the short stories up and the variance in lengths is useful in holding the readers’ attention.

Some of the poems I really enjoyed were: “Mourning Meal,” “Forever Dead,” “Bottling Up De Evil,” and “Alien Bathroom.” “Mourning Meal,” is about a woman whose child has passed away, and she is eating memories of the child, consuming things like a Mother’s Day card and toy spacemen:

bitten into little pieces
swallowed like strange pills.

“Forever Dead,’ is a first-person poem about a zombie stumbling through Central Park. He says that he: “lost my soul to a Voodoo Goddess.” Then, “Bottling Up De Evil,” was a poem I found interesting, as it’s about bottle trees, trees with bottles tied to their branches to attract ghosts into them. They’re mostly seen in the South, and an example can be seen in the movie Because of Winn-Dixie. “Alien Bathroom,” is a fun poem about various aliens trying to figure out what a relic is that they’re viewing. Each type of alien undergoes some elaborate ritual, but none comes close to figuring out what the relic is, until one finally figures out how to flush it–as the relic is a toilet.

On to the short stories. I’ll just mention three examples of the great tales in the collection, to give you an idea of what you can expect when you purchase Linda’s book.

I really enjoyed reading “The Power,” and liked it even more when I came to a story at the end of the book, called “Milez to Go,” that has the same two main characters in it, but now they’re older. “The Power” is about two girls, cousins, Brenda and Angelique, and their involvement with magic that gets slightly out of hand. Angilique goes to visit Brenda and her grandmother, sent there by a seemingly uncaring mother. She desires her mother to love her more, so Brenda shows her how to make a gris-gris, or magical talisman, to strengthen the bonds of familial love.

This, though, has the unintended consequences of attracting the attention of Mrs. Johnston, an odd hag who lives nearby. Though the girls learn that their grandmother was once friends with Mrs. Johnston, things have changed very much since that time. It’s all the girls can do to save their grandmother’s life, after they unwittingly attract the demonic Mrs. Johnston and she tries to take over their grandmother’s body and soul.

The second tale to feature Brenda and Angelique, “Milez to Go,” is perhaps my favorite in the volume. Milez is a protoplasmic musical intrument that Brenda has invented for Angelique to use in her band, which often performs a the Funky Piranha club where she works.The two women encounter three evil charcters who want some information Brenda has, and they will do anything they can to get it from her, including torturing and killing whomever gets in their ways. Milez can talk, and he plays a part in the eventual success of Brenda and Angelique over their foes. Of course, magic again also is pivotal to the tale, and both women have increased in their powers.

The third (and final) story I’ll mention is one with a pretty neat title: “369 Gates of Hell.” The story’s main character is Redi Thomas, who, as the tale opens, is a bodyguard of an accountant. Redi has been an assassin, and her skills have led to her being constantly haunted by the ghosts of the people she’s assassinated. She also had a stepfather who abused her, and Redi longs to get revenge on him, even though he is dead and buried. Enter a character straight from the depths of Hell to offer her that very opportunity, in return for one simple favor: killing the very accountant she’s been hired to protect. Will the exquisite pain Redi experiences as a result of her desire for revenge wake her up to who she really is? read the tale to find out!

How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend (A Collection of Prose & Verse) by Linda Addison is a marvelous collection of horror & SF tales & poetry that you are sure to love if you’re a fan of these genres. See why critics and readers around the world are making Linda one of the best-known names of the horror genre by reading the poems and tales in this collection for yourselves!

Franklin E. Wales knows what it takes to tell a great zombie story: blood, guts, glory, halfbreed human/zombies, and…oh, yes–zombies. As I have been known to be an afficionado of horror & zombie novels, I was very much interested in reading/reviewing the author’s novel available at Amazon for $10.99 (Click to Buy) Deadheads: Evolution and seeing for myself if it was as good as I’d heard. It is, and even more so, a brilliant shining gem of zombie goodness without the candy-coated shell. As a bonus, it has very cool illustrations by Joseph “Jody” Adams. The bombs have been dropped, the zombie virus has spread, and the voracious Deadheads want to claim the Earth as their own. To Hell with the meek–the Deadheads are here, they’re attemtping to become the dominant species, and…they’re evolving.

What can you expect when you read Deadheads: Evolution? Is it worth your hard-earned cash? It’s about motorcycle-riding, dark sunglass-wearing, gun-totin’ Gage Owen, and takes up his tale two years after the biobombs fell, transforming the Earth into a wonderful mystical gory Zombie Wonderland. Well, it’s not that wonderful if you’re a human, as humans are no longer at the top of the proverbial foodchain–zombies are. Fortunately, there are people out there like Gage, fighting back against the zombies and trying to bring order back to the chaotic postapocalyptic world one dead zombie at a time. And, Gage likes to go about his bidness while singing tunes like The Battle Hymn of the Republic. The old standards are best, when it comes to shooting the Living Dead.

And, there’s a traveling companion he picks up, the lovely Sara. Sara has been held captive, locked away and fed, by a household of zombies who have figured out a way to lure humans to their screaming munchy crunchy deaths. Their plans for Sara are ruined when Gage invades their happy home and rescues her, by putting caps into their zombie heads. Sara, Gage finds, is a fairly proficient shot, herself–which can (and does) prove to be very useful–especially when the Deadheads are becoming more intelligent, and seem to be developing a mindreading, hive mentality, like they do in Stephen King’s novel Cell.

Yet another interesting character in Deadheads: Evolution is the ex-Congressman, First-Peter. He and his brother Samuel try to flee the Deadheads in a boat, but they find to their dismay that the boat is also carrying an unwelcome stowaway: a deadhead in the hold. The zombie infects Sam before First-Peter can stop it, and Sam in turn becomes a zombie. First-Peter kills him, then hallucinates–or does he? Jesus walks on the water and speaks to him, and in his hunger and thirst-induced condition, First-Peter takes and eats a strip of his brother’s flesh, in order to attain a new life…or, at least, to continue living. The real/imaginery Jesus reminds him of a bottle of Gatorade down in the hold, thus providing First-Peter with enough to drink to keep him alive until he reaches land.

What does he then do, but start himself a new religion, to honor Jesus and the New Life he has received. First-Peter captures a deadhead he christens Adam, gains followers, and becomes the creator of a new religious movement. The sacrament of the religion includes partaking of strips of flesh he slices from Adam and then consumes, inviting anyone who comes to his revivals to also eat. It’s a religious movement you can really…sink your teeth into (groan). Spoiler Alert: Too bad a brutal motorcycle gang puts an end to First-Peter’s life.

Deadheads: Revolution by Franklin E. Wales is proof that there is still plenty of life in the Living Dead subgenre of horror fiction. Gage, half-human, half-zombie, is all bad ass! On the human side, another villain Gage faces is Sheriff Brody of New Hope. If you are a fan of horror and zombie fiction, Deadheads: Evolution by Franklin E. Wales is a Must Read and is well worth the cover price. Other fantastic novels by Franklin E. Wales include Purgatory Junction, Booger, Gamesmaster, and Friend. A little short on cash/prefer to read ebooks? Well, friend, you’re in luck, as you can also buy this fine book by Mr. Wales at Smashwords as an ebook for a mere $3.99. Just click here.

In the silence of the night, unquiet things rustle and scuttle. Are they they products of our unsettled imaginations, or are they…something more? These unquiet things are the subjects horror author Charles L. Grant loved to write about. He was perhaps one of the best horror writer ever at conveying a sense of unease and dread, and his novelas set in the New England town of Oxrun Station display this talent to its fullest. Necon’s series of Charles L. Grant re-releases in ebook form, if you’re a fan of horror fiction, are a great way to read these gems and celebrate the genius of the horror
genre that was Grant.

The Complete Short Fiction of Charles L. Grant Volume II: The Orchard is composed of an introduction by Kealan Patrick Burke, a prologue by Grant, and four of his Oxrun Station novelas: “My Mary’s Asleep,” “I See Her Sweet and Fair,” “The Last and Dreadful Hour,” and “Screaming In the Dark.” The stories are loosely linked by their setting, by a spooky old blackened apple orchard at the outskirts of town, and by recurring characters from the first tale in the collection, “My Mary’s Asleep.”

What are the short stories about? “My Mary’s Asleep” tells the tale of college students who ought to be preparing for their finals, but who instead choose to use their Sunday to have a picnic, have fun, and blow off some steam. Something mysterious lurks in the old orchard near to where they picnic, but what is it? They enjoy the picnic, have fun playing a game of tag with few rules, and one of the group gets smashed into by a car and dies. That person is the boyfriend of Mary Oster. The main protagonist of the story, the overweight Herb Johns, has the hots for Mary, and so is not unhappy when her boyfriend bites the dust. But then, the other friends at the picnic also begin to die off; Herb mysteriously loses quite a bit of weight in a short time; he carves an elaborate coffin with Mary’s visage on it and a life-sized version of Mary; and then, he eventually finds himself alone in the old apple orchard. Or, is he truly alone?

The second novela, “I See Her Sweet and Fair,” has as its main protagonist a middle-aged police officer who has a teenage son who may be a murderer. Policeman Brett Gilman wonders which of two women in town might be showing the most interst in him, and if he can still find love this late in his life. His teenage son, Les, has been on eof the last people seen with young teen girls who have been showing up dead, ran through by an unknown weapon, perhaps an icepick. Brett tries to confront his son, but Les takes off and runs away, afraid that he is about to be arrested, and that his father doesn’t trust him. But, is it really Les who is behind the murders, or some mysterious creature form mythology borught to life by the hopes and wishes of an obsessed woman?

The third tale in the collection, “The Sweet and Dreadful Hour,” is one of my favorites, as it is a bit more bloody and gory. Ellory Phillips and assorted other characters find themselves hopelessly trapped in a movie theater during a storm. He is watching a movie with a woman he’s asked out on a date when there’s a power failure. An old man falls, and gets knocked unconscious. People try to leave the theater, but find that the doors are all locked, though two people do manage to leave through the doors to get help. They never return. The glass windows are impossible to smash, despite the best efforts of those trapped within. There are shape-shifting demonic figures like Ginny. She acts very seductive, and her clothes somehow fall off of her body. But then her flesh falls away and she’s not so seductive anymore. There are people who disappear mysteriously; and, the concept that it’s all just a dream, and soon they will awaken. But, Herb for one still can feel pain. If it’s all just a dream, then whose dream is it?

The fourth story, “Screaming, In the Dark,” is a nice conclusion to the collection. It’s about a reporter who is recovering from a broken leg in a hospital. But, then he gets an odd bunkmate in his room. Too bad his insurance didn’t cover a private room…but then, there wouldn’t be much to this gem of a horror story.

Check out The Orchard by Charles L. Grant if you love reading quiet horror stories full of dread that creep up on you and without warning, rip your throat out. Happy reading, and pleasant screams–er, dreams.

Looking for some great horror fiction to read? Necon E-Books has come out with loads of fantastic ebooks that are sure to please the most discriminating fans of the genre. I will periodically review some of the excellent horror novels featured there. This week, I will focus on the first in a series of eight books that Necon is releasing covering the collected short fiction of the renowned horror author, the late Charles L. Grant (September 12, 1942 – September 15, 2006) titled Nightmare Seasons. Available at the site as an ebook for $4.99, it is composed of four novellas by Grant, and is a great beginning to the series and one that you’ll want to add to your E-libraries.

Originally published by Tor in 1982, the brooding and suspenseful tales of horror in this collection have found new life and hopefully a new and wider audience of horror fans. The four novellas are interrelated, linked by both their setting and the theme of seasons and decades, and what fresh horrors each season can bring. As stated at the Necon site, where you can order this ebook and many others, this makes Nightmare Seasons “a tone poem – almost a symphony.”

This description might make the book seem highbrow, but though the writing is sophisticated and polished, it contains enough genuine horrific moments that it beat out Stephen King’s Different Seasons and Dennis Etchison’s The Dark Country to win the World Fantasy Award for Best Collection/Anthology. Not too shabby, when you can write good enough horror to beat the America’s King of Horror.

So, what do you get when you purchase Nightmare Seasons, the first of the eight-book series? First, the folks at Necon E-books will work to make sure you get the ebook format that’s right for whatever reading device you want to download it to, whether it be to your Kindle, Nook, Kobo, cell phone, or computer, for example.

Nightmare Seasons begins with a nicely written prologue by the horror author and critic Don D’Ammassa that also serves to introduce us to Oxrun Station, a fictional Connecticut town where the stories of this collection (and much of Grant’s other fiction) is set. Besides the setting of the stories, they also contain the themes of “the potentially destructive power of love when it demands too much,” and “the tragedy of lonliness and the danger it poses for those so afflicted,” as Don Ammassa notes.

The four novellas are set in different decades and seasons. The first one, “Thou Need Not Fear My Kisses, Love,” takes place in the spring of 1940 and is about what happens when Samantha England, the de facto head of her father’s corporation when he suffers a stroke, comes home to discover the severed foot of a co-worker who may have been her lover of her lover lying in front of her house. She denies that he was her lover, but they were definitely close. Then, her fellow co-workers also begin to meet mysterious demises. Who, or what, is behind the series of odd deaths? Is the culprit a serial killer, a bear, or something…else?

The second tale, “Now There Comes A Darker Day,” is set in the summer of 1950. It, like the first story, involves a group of men attracted to a woman, but the woman in this tale is very different from Samantha England. Her name is Elizabeth Corey, and she travels with an enigmatic and creepy young girl, who has a thing for violets. The men whom are regulars at a local bar each, in turn, become fatally attracted to Corey, and feel the need to protect her and love her. They fall under her spell, but each has worrisome qulams about the silent little girl who seems to be her daughter. The men Corey leaves suffer terrible fates; but, is it the fault of Corey, or perhaps, somehow, the little girl?

“Night’s Swift Dragons,” the third novella, is set in the autumn of 1960, largely in the postal office of Oxrun Station. The workers there encounter a mysterious, Night Gallery-type of evil that is almost beyond their ability to comprehend. They find themselves virtual prisoners of the post office when their town is invaded by a motorcyle gang. But, is it a gang of bikers, as they appear to be; or, are they something much…worse, and evil? Perhaps they are archetypal antiheroes, perhaps they are dragons, who appear throughout history under different guises, and enjoy killing just for the sheer pleasure of it. I’d say it was my favorite novella from a collection of strong, powerful ones that display Grant’s writing prowess at their apex.

“The Color of Joy” takes place in thw winter of 1970. It is a
Christmas story, and the protagonist is the daughter of one of the postal workers from the previous story. Melissa is the center of a circle of devoted friends, but she has never gotten over the deahts of her mother and, later, her brothers. She finds it difficult to relate to others, but she believes that, in general, she is happy. However, Melissa finds it difficult to explain why she keeps imagining that someone is watching her, and she eventually begins to realize that perhaps her friends may feel differently about her than she has thought that they have. It’s a fascinating tale of self-realization and the horrors it brings.

Besides winning the World Fantasy Award, Charles Lewis Grant a Nebula Award in 1976 for his short story “A Crowd of Shadows”, and another Nebula Award in 1978 for his novella “A Glow of Candles, a Unicorn’s Eye.” He has also written under the pseudonyms of Geoffrey Marsh, Lionel Fenn, Simon Lake, Felicia Andrews, and Deborah Lewis.

To be perfectly honest, I had not heard of Charles L. Grant before I had the good fortune to be sent a copy of the ebook, The Complete Stories of Charles L. Grant: Nightmare Seasons Volume One. I didn’t know what to expect from the collection, but I greatly enjoyed reading it. It’s not a type of collection of horror that is about blood & gore from the beginning to the end of each story, though, which is what many readers of the genre have come to expect. Rather, the horror creeps up on you more. While terrible and gruesome things happen, the psychological horrors that the main protagonists experience are just as crucial to the plots of the tales. Though I have come to the writing of Charles L. Grant relatively late, I see his writing as that of a master of the horror genre, and I am looking forward to reading the second book of the series, The Orchard very much. Check out this wonderful collection of Grant’s novellas today!

–Douglas R. Cobb–

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