The Saturday Night Special: “Ancient Lights” by Algernon Blackwood (1912)

From Southwater, where he left the train, the road led due west. That he knew; for the rest he trusted to luck, being one of those born walkers who dislike asking the way. He had that instinct, and as a rule it served him well. “A mile or so due west along the sandy road till you come to a stile on the right; then across the fields. You’ll see the red house straight before you.” He glanced at the post-card’s instructions once again, and once again he tried to decipher the scratched-out sentence—without success. It had been so elaborately inked over that no word was legible. Inked-out sentences in a letter were always enticing. He wondered what it was that had to be so very carefully obliterated.

The afternoon was boisterous, with a tearing, shouting wind that blew from the sea, across the Sussex weald. Massive clouds with

Algernon Blackwood 1869-1951

Algernon Blackwood
1869-1951

rounded, piled-up edges, cannoned across gaping spaces of blue sky. Far away the line of Downs swept the horizon, like an arriving wave. Chanc­tonbury Ring rode their crest—a scudding ship, hull down before the wind. He took his hat off and walked rapidly, breathing great draughts of air with delight and exhilaration. The road was deserted; no horsemen, bicycles, or motors; not even a tradesman’s cart; no single walker. But anyhow he would never have asked the way. Keeping a sharp eye for the stile, he pounded along, while the wind tossed the cloak against his face, and made waves across the blue puddles in the yellow road. The trees showed their under leaves of white. The bracken and the high new grass bent all one way. Great life was in the day, high spirits and dancing every­where. And for a Croydon surveyor’s clerk just out of an office this was like a holiday at the sea.

It was a day for high adventure, and his heart rose up to meet the mood of Nature. His umbrella with the silver ring ought to have been a sword, and his brown shoes should have been top-boots with spurs upon the heels. Where hid the enchanted Castle and the princess with the hair of sunny gold? His horse…

The stile came suddenly into view and nipped adventure in the bud. Everyday clothes took him prisoner again. He was a surveyor’s clerk, middle-aged, earning three pounds a week, coming from Croydon to see about a client’s proposed alterations in a wood—something to ensure a better view from the dining-room window. Across the fields, perhaps a mile away, he saw the red house gleaming in the sunshine; and resting on the stile a moment to get his breath he noticed a copse of oak and hornbeam on the right. “Aha,” he told himself “so that must be the wood he wants to cut down to improve the view? I’ll ’ave a look at it.” There were boards up, of course, but there was an inviting little path as well. “I’m not a trespasser,” he said; “it’s part of my business, this is.” He scrambled awkwardly over the gate and entered the copse. A little round would bring him to the field again.

But the moment he passed among the trees the wind ceased shouting and a stillness dropped upon the world. So dense was the growth that the sunshine only came through in isolated patches. The air was close. He mopped his forehead and put his green felt hat on, but a low branch knocked it off again at once, and as he stooped an elastic twig swung back and stung his face. There were flowers along both edges of the little path; glades opened on either side; ferns curved about in damper corners, and the smell of earth and foliage was rich and sweet. It was cooler here. What an enchanting little wood, he thought, turning down a small green glade where the sunshine flickered like silver wings. How it danced and fluttered and moved about! He put a dark blue flower in his buttonhole. Again his hat, caught by an oak branch as he rose, was knocked from his head, falling across his eyes. And this time he did not put it on again. Swinging his umbrella, he walked on with uncovered head, whistling rather loudly as he went. But the thickness of the trees hardly encouraged whistling, and something of his gaiety and high spirits seemed to leave him. He suddenly found himself treading circumspectly and with caution. The stillness in the wood was so peculiar.

There was a rustle among the ferns and leaves and something shot across the path ten yards ahead, stopped abruptly an instant with head cocked sideways to stare, then dived again beneath the underbrush with the speed of a shadow. He started like a frightened child, laughing the next second that a mere pheasant could have made him jump. In the distance he heard wheels upon the road, and wondered why the sound was pleasant. “Good old butcher’s cart,” he said to himself—then realised that he was going in the wrong direction and had somehow got turned round. For the road should be behind him, not in front.

And he hurriedly took another narrow glade that lost itself in greenness to the right. “That’s my direction, of course,” he said; “the trees has mixed me up a bit, it seems”—then found himself abruptly by the gate he had first climbed over. He had merely made a circle. Surprise became almost discomfiture then. And a man, dressed like a gamekeeper in browny green, leaned against the gate, hitting his legs with a switch. “I’m making for Mr. Lumley’s farm,” explained the walker. “This is his wood, I believe—” then stopped dead, because it was no man at all, but merely an effect of light and shade and foliage. He stepped back to reconstruct the singular illusion, but the wind shook the branches roughly here on the edge of the wood and the foliage refused to recon­struct the figure. The leaves all rustled strangely. And just then the sun went behind a cloud, making the whole wood look otherwise. Yet how the mind could be thus doubly deceived was indeed remarkable, for it almost seemed to him the man had answered, spoken—or was this the shuffling noise the branches made ?—and had pointed with his switch to the notice-board upon the nearest tree. The words rang on in his head, but of course he had imagined them: “No, it’s not his wood. It’s ours.” And some village wit, moreover, had changed the lettering on the weather-beaten board, for it read quite plainly, “Trespassers will be persecuted.”

And while the astonished clerk read the words and chuckled, he said to himself, thinking what a tale he’d have to tell his wife and children later—“The blooming wood has tried to chuck me out. But I’ll go in again. Why, it’s only a matter of a square acre at most. I’m bound to reach the fields on the other side if I keep straight on.” He remembered his position in the office. He had a certain dignity to maintain.

The cloud passed from below the sun, and light splashed suddenly in all manner of unlikely places. The man went straight on. He felt a touch of puzzling con­fusion somewhere; this way the copse had of shifting from sunshine into shadow doubtless troubled sight a little. To his relief at last, a new glade opened through the trees and disclosed the fields with a glimpse of the red house in the distance at the far end. But a little wicket gate that stood across the path had first to be climbed, and as he scrambled heavily over—for it would not open—he got the astonishing feeling that it slid off sideways beneath his weight, and towards the wood. Like the moving staircases at Harrod’s and Earl’s Court, it began to glide off with him. It was quite horrible. He made a violent effort to get down before it carried him into the trees, but his feet became entangled with the bars and umbrella, so that he fell heavily upon the farther side, arms spread across the grass and nettles, boots clutched between the first and second bars. He lay there a moment like a man crucified upside down, and while he struggled to get disentangled—feet, bars, and umbrella formed a regular net—he saw the little man in browny green go past him with extreme rapidity through the wood. The man was laughing. He passed across the glade some fifty yards away, and he was not alone this time. A companion like himself went with him. The clerk, now upon his feet again, watched them disappear into the gloom of green beyond. “They’re tramps, not gamekeepers,” he said to himself, half mortified, half angry. But his heart was thumping dreadfully, and he dared not utter all his thought.

He examined the wicket gate, convinced it was a trick gate somehow—then went hurriedly on again, disturbed beyond belief to see that the glade no longer opened into fields, but curved away to the right. What in the world had happened to him? His sight was so utterly at fault. Again the sun flamed out abruptly and lit the floor of the wood with pools of silver, and at the same moment a violent gust of wind passed shouting overhead. Drops fell clattering everywhere upon the leaves, making a sharp pattering as of many footsteps. The whole copse shuddered and went moving.

“Rain, by George,” thought the clerk, and feeling for his umbrella, discovered he had lost it. He turned back to the gate and found it lying on the farther side. To his amazement he saw the fields at the far end of the glade, the red house, too, ashine in the sunset. He laughed then, for, of course, in his struggle with the gate, he had somehow got turned round—had fallen back instead of forwards. Climbing over, this time quite easily, he retraced his steps. The silver band, he saw, had been torn from the umbrella. No doubt his foot, a nail, or something had caught in it and ripped it off. The clerk began to run; he felt extraordinarily dismayed.

But, while he ran, the entire wood ran with him, round him, to and fro, trees shifting like living things, leaves folding and unfolding, trunks darting backwards and forwards, and branches disclosing enormous empty spaces, then closing up again before he could look into them. There were footsteps everywhere, and laughing, crying voices, and crowds of figures gathering just behind his back till the glade, he knew, was thick with moving life. The wind in his ears, of course, produced the voices and the laughter, while sun and clouds, plunging the copse alternately in shadow and bright dazzling light, created the figures. But he did not like it, and went as fast as ever his sturdy legs could take him. He was frightened now. This was no story for his wife and children. He ran like the wind. But his feet made no sound upon the soft mossy turf.

Then, to his horror, he saw that the glade grew narrow, nettles and weeds stood thick across it, it dwindled down into a tiny path, and twenty yards ahead it stopped finally and melted off among the trees. What the trick gate had failed to achieve, this twisting glade accomplished easily—carried him in bodily among the dense and crowding trees.

There was only one thing to do—turn sharply and dash back again, run headlong into the life that followed at his back, followed so closely too that now it almost touched him, pushing him in. And with reckless courage this was what he did. It seemed a fearful thing to do. He turned with a sort of violent spring, head down and shoulders forward, hands stretched before his face. He made the plunge; like a hunted creature he charged full tilt the other way, meeting the wind now in his face.

Good Lord! The glade behind him had closed up as well; there was no longer any path at all. Turning round and round, like an animal at bay, he searched for an opening, a way of escape, searched frantically, breath­lessly, terrified now in his bones. But foliage surrounded him, branches blocked the way; the trees stood close and still, unshaken by a breath of wind; and the sun dipped that moment behind a great black cloud. The entire wood turned dark and silent. It watched him.

Perhaps it was this final touch of sudden blackness that made him act so foolishly, as though he had really lost his head. At any rate, without pausing to think, he dashed headlong in among the trees again. There was a sensation of being stiflingly surrounded and entangled, and that he must break out at all costs—out and away into the open of the blessed fields and air. He did this ill-considered thing, and apparently charged straight into an oak that deliber­ately moved into his path to stop him. He saw it shift across a good full yard, and being a measuring man, accustomed to theodolite and chain, he ought to know. He fell, saw stars, and felt a thousand tiny fingers tugging and pulling at his hands and neck and ankles. The stinging nettles, no doubt, were responsible for this. He thought of it later. At the moment it felt diabolically calculated.

But another remarkable illusion was not so easily explained. For all in a moment, it seemed, the entire wood went sliding past him with a thick deep rustling of leaves and laughter, myriad footsteps, and tiny little active, energetic shapes; two men in browny green gave him a mighty hoist—and he opened his eyes to find himself lying in the meadow beside the stile where first his incredible adventure had begun. The wood stood in its usual place and stared down upon him in the sunlight. There was the red house in the distance as before. Above him grinned the weather-beaten notice-board: “Tres­passers will be prosecuted.”

Dishevelled in mind and body, and a good deal shaken in his official soul, the clerk walked slowly across the fields. But on the way he glanced once more at the post­card of instructions, and saw with dull amazement that the inked-out sentence was quite legible after all beneath the scratches made across it: “There is a short cut through the wood—the wood I want cut down—if you care to take it.” Only “care” was so badly written, it looked more like another word; the “c” was uncommonly like “d.”

“That’s the copse that spoils my view of the Downs, you see,” his client explained to him later, pointing across the fields, and referring to the ordnance map beside him. “I want it cut down and a path made so and so.” His finger indicated direction on the map. “The Fairy Wood—it’s still called, and it’s far older than this house. Come now, if you’re ready, Mr. Thomas, we might go out and have a look at it. . .”

 

Reviews Needed

I am seeking people to review my works and who post their reviews to markets in the US, Australia, New Zealand, or Canada. I offer my Kindle e-books for free periodically according to Amazon policy.  You can find my works on my Amazon author’s page.  Let me know which you would like to review and I will let you know when it available for free or set up a date that you can have it for fee. I am most interested in having reviewed either my short horror (A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror), my collected poetry (Nocturne: Poems of Love, Distance, and the Night, a callous and disinterested lover), my short fiction on relationships (The Scent and Other Stories), or my action-adventure novelette (Click).  The other two works are contained in A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror.

Update, November 30, 2019: Progress on New Story Collection “Slattery’s Classic Tales of Horror”

Illustration by Viergacht via Pixabay

Illustration by Viergacht

If you have followed my website, you know that I usually post a short horror story from the nineteenth or early twentieth century on Saturday nights. I call it “The Saturday Night Special”. I have accumulated somewhere around 36+ stories, all of which are in the public domain. I have decided to collect these into a volume and publish them on Kindle. I have not decided what the title will be. It’s probably going to be Slattery’s Classic Tales of Horror or something similar. Until last night, I had only two stories and no front or back matter or even a basic framework. Last night, while watching Netflix with the family, I started going back into my posts and putting them in the new collection, arranging them in chronological order. I wrote a draft title in Algerian font and a preface (Times New Roman like the rest of the text). I picked a quotation from Shakespeare for the quotation page :”What’s past is prologue.” I now have fourteen stories and poems from the likes of Edgar Allan Poe (naturally), Algernon Blackwood, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Louisa May Alcott (yes, the author of Little Women did write at least one ghost story), M.R. James, Wilkie Collins, and several others. If a story has some notes that I published with the story originally, I am including them. I will probably include a photo or drawing of the author with each story, as I did originally.

Having the stories arranged chronologically will be good so that the reader can see the progression of horror over the decades. You will be able to see how writing styles developed on a nationwide level as well as the development of the English language and the American dialect.

I have no completion date set, but if I can continue as I did last night (and taking into the account that I have to work a day job), I may be finished in a month or two.

Phil Slattery’s Sci-Fi Novelette “Alien Embrace” is Available on Amazon Kindle and in Print

Logan Rickover, owner of a hardware store in a small town in Kentucky, has lucid dreams of life as an astronaut that intrude upon his life at any moment. Which of his lives is real? The quiet paradise of Danville or the terrifying jungle world of Stheno D?

This novelette is a terrific read for those who have only a quick break to take a breather and escape to another reality.  In this sci-fi thriller, I endeavor to blur the boundaries between alien-induced hallucinations, the brutal reality of the present, and memories of an idyllic past.

Ron Baker calls it “Nightmare Planet”, gives it five stars, and comments: “This short has exactly what I like in science fiction: planet exploration and bizarre otherworldly aliens, in this case insectoid. The horrendous purpose the aliens have for the hapless astronauts who make planetfall to find the numerous previous missing exploration teams is grisly. I love the mystery of the planet and the authors device of alternating from the aliens bizarre perspective then switching to the astronauts point of view.”

Don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or other social media.

Check back frequently for updates.

“Diabolical: Three Tales of Vengeance and the Sorcerer Jack Thurston” is Free Today to Celebrate the Festival of Hecate Trivia

Today, Diabolical is free today in celebration of the festival of Hecate Trivia.

Wikipedia says of Hecate:

Hecate or Hekate (/ˈhɛkət/Ancient GreekἙκάτηHekátē) is a goddess in ancient Greek religion and mythology, most often shown holding a pair of torches or a key and in later periods depicted in triple form. She is variously associated with crossroads, entrance-ways, light, magicwitchcraft, knowledge of herbs and poisonous plants, ghosts, necromancy, and sorcery. She appears in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter and in Hesiod‘s Theogony, where she is promoted strongly as a great goddess. The place of origin of her following is uncertain, but it is thought that she had popular followings in Thrace.

Hecate was one of the main deities worshipped in Athenian households as a protective goddess and one who bestowed prosperity and daily blessings on the family. In the post-Christian writings of the Chaldean Oracles (2nd–3rd century CE) she was regarded with (some) rulership over earth, sea, and sky, as well as a more universal role as Saviour (Soteira), Mother of Angels and the Cosmic World Soul. Regarding the nature of her cult, it has been remarked, “she is more at home on the fringes than in the centre of Greek polytheism. Intrinsically ambivalent and polymorphous, she straddles conventional boundaries and eludes definition.”

Go to amazon.com/author/philslattery or Goodreads or any other social media to leave a review.

Jack Thurston is a retired professor of medieval literature and history. He is also a widower and father and a retired sorcerer who has returned to the black arts to exact revenge for the death of his wife, daughter, and brother. He has an intriguing position in the universe at a focal point of life, the afterlife, logic and reason, anger and hatred, the ancient and the modern worlds, grief and his attempts to escape grief through self-destruction. Though he wants to have the peace he once found with his wife, Agatha, he is pulled in many directions by circumstance and by his powerful negative emotions.

Reader Edward Z says about these three tales:

“Three of the stories feature a sorcerer named Jack Thurston, who is a really well done evil sort of character and the best of the bunch in my opinion. The author methodically goes through his rather complicated and gross preparations for the spells and it adds a bit more weight to them then usually found in these kinds of stories.”

Reader Tabs says about this collection of three tales:

“I very much enjoyed this short read. It was interesting and allowed for me to develop great imagery. Will recommend to friends.”

This collection of three short tales is perfect for those who have only a few short breaks to escape into the hidden world of horror, black magic, sorcery, and anger-fueled revenge.

I am a fan of the old school horror practiced by such authors as H.P. Lovecraft, Poe, Edward Lucas White, and Arthur Machen.  I endeavor to make a story as terrifying and suspenseful for the reader as possible without resorting to gratuitous blood and gore for a simple shock or quick feeling of disgust.

You can find this and other works at my Amazon author’s page:  www.amazon.com/author/philslattery.

Currently, Jack has a Twitter account (@jthurston666), where he has attracted a small following.

Information on more social media accounts and other characters (as they are developed) can be found at: philslattery.wordpress.com.

Show your appreciation for these stories by leaving a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or other social media.

If you enjoy horror, check out my collection of horror short stories A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror: Stories of wizards, werewolves, serial killers, alien worlds, and the damned, which includes these stories.

Today is Friday, November 29 (Black Friday). Four of my Books are Free Today.

The new cover for Nocturne as of November 15, 2019.

On Friday, November 29 (Black Friday) I will have four of my works free on Amazon Kindle: Click; A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror; The Scent and Other Stories; and Nocturne: Poems of Love, Distance, and the Night, a callous and disinterested lover.

I am doing this primary as an experiment in marketing and publicity. Yesterday, I offered the same four books as free and I got more takers than usual.

If you noticed, I have new covers for three except The Scent and Other Stories. I hope to have a new cover for it by Friday the 29th, however. This is another marketing tactic. Because I love black and white photography and often find it captivating and powerful, I have used it for most of my covers, trying to express something I see in each book.  But I see that most, more experienced authors use full color, flashy covers to grab the buyer’s attention. So I decided to give that a shot and see if sales pick up.  I tried to make each cover grab the attention of a passing buyer by making it not only in full color, but also expressing something powerful and exciting about the experience I hope to get across in my book.  I would like readers, not to judge my books by their covers, but maybe get a taste of

The new cover for Click as of November 15, 2019.

The new cover for Click as of November 15, 2019.

my books from their covers.

Anyway, I have included the three new covers in this article. If you would like to find out more about each, please go to my Amazon author’s blog. You can sign up for updates there or go to philslattery.wordpress.com and follow me there.

Oh, by the way, if you’re wondering where I got the covers, I downloaded some royalty-free public domain images from Pixabay (and maybe Pexels) and manipulated them in Pixlr. Each one took a few hours to make.

Hasta luego.

I am sitting here right now (Saturday night, 8:47 pm CST, at home in Arkansas Post, listening to Carlos Nakai. It sort of makes me homesick for New Mexico. Beautiful, slow, peaceful, Native American flute music that sounds like it’s coming across a mesa or from some Anasazi ruins. If you ever need to seriously relax I recommend listening to Carlos.

The new cover for A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror as of November 15, 2019.

The new cover for A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror as of November 15, 2019.

“Nocturne: Poems of Love, Distance, and the Night…” is Available on Amazon Kindle

The new cover for Nocturne as of November 15, 2019.

Nocturne: Poems of Love, Distance, and the Night, a callous and disinterested lover is a collection of my poetry written from the mid-80’s to mid-90s, a turbulent, fluid time in my life in many ways, but especially romantically. I have taken many of the poems written during those years and compiled them into a dark narrative capturing the emotional turmoil of a narrator who descends from romantic love for a woman into a lonely world of alcohol and night clubs, where his only love is the night that envelopes him psychologically, emotionally, and physically.  It is about 110 print pages in length and lavishly illustrated with photos I found in the public domain (no, those are not photos of me or of my former paramours).

You can read samples of it and my other works at my Amazon author’s page:  Amazon.com/author/philslattery.

I have tried to make this a wonderful experience for the reader, exploring the bliss of love to the depths of despair and then to resignation to one’s fate in an existential crisis.

Don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads or other social media!

While there, you might want to check out my other work on relationships: The Scent and Other Stories.  In this collection of short stories, I explore the dark, sometimes violent, sometimes twisted, sometimes touching side of love, the side kept not only from public view, but sometimes from our mates. Set in the modern era, these stories range from regretting losing a lover to forbidden interracial love in the hills of 1970’s Kentucky to a mother’s deathbed confession in present-day New Mexico to debating pursuing a hateful man’s wife to the callous manipulation of a lover in Texas.

Two reviews have warm praise for Nocturne…:

J. Muckley calls it “Beautiful, Sad, Authentic and Vulnerable Look at Love and Loss” and gives it five stars, saying:

Nocturne: Poems of Love, Distance, and the Night, a callous and disinterested lover by Phil Slattery is a deep and raw “picture” of experiencing love and lovers of varying type, capturing the moments of ecstasy and pain in a most beautiful way.

Slattery speaks with one voice as his words and pictures depict the full range of human love and loss that both tempts the soul to engage and urges the heart to resist. His opening quote by Augustine of Hippo captures this work perfectly: “I was not yet in love, yet I loved to love…I sought what I might love, in love with loving.”  –Augustine of Hippo

The poems are mostly untitled and written in free verse form. The reader meanders through the past relationships as they ebb and flow through varying stages. The introduction poem tells of the types of poem you will soon encounter:
nights of love
full of life and laughter
as empty as an empty
bottle

The poem closes:
Bring me to that ultimate pleasure
in your all-consuming eyes.
Let us become one
and share the horrors of this
world

All in all, Nocturne, is a beautiful but sad read that speaks to the reality of love and holds nothing back. It engages the mind and the heart longing for lasting, meaningful love that always seems just outside of its reach.

P.S. Winn calls it “Great Poems with Pictures”, gives it four stars, and says:

I like this author’s poems which have a great feel to them. The book is about love but a lot more is included inside the pages. I like the photos the author included to enhance the poetry. A few of the poems held descriptive words about nature and I enjoyed the way the picture author paints in the readers mind is also displayed in the photographs that correspond with the words.

Check back frequently for updates.

Note Friday, November 29 (Black Friday) on Your Calendars

The new cover for Nocturne as of November 15, 2019.

On Friday, November 29 (Black Friday) I will have four of my works free on Amazon Kindle: Click; A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror; The Scent and Other Stories; and Nocturne: Poems of Love, Distance, and the Night, a callous and disinterested lover.

I am doing this primary as an experiment in marketing and publicity. Yesterday, I offered the same four books as free and I got more takers than usual.

If you noticed, I have new covers for three except The Scent and Other Stories. I hope to have a new cover for it by Friday the 29th, however. This is another marketing tactic. Because I love black and white photography and often find it captivating and powerful, I have used it for most of my covers, trying to express something I see in each book.  But I see that most, more experienced authors use full color, flashy covers to grab the buyer’s attention. So I decided to give that a shot and see if sales pick up.  I tried to make each cover grab the attention of a passing buyer by making it not only in full color, but also expressing something powerful and exciting about the experience I hope to get across in my book.  I would like readers, not to judge my books by their covers, but maybe get a taste of

The new cover for Click as of November 15, 2019.

The new cover for Click as of November 15, 2019.

my books from their covers.

Anyway, I have included the three new covers in this article. If you would like to find out more about each, please go to my Amazon author’s blog. You can sign up for updates there or go to philslattery.wordpress.com and follow me there.

Oh, by the way, if you’re wondering where I got the covers, I downloaded some royalty-free public domain images from Pixabay (and maybe Pexels) and manipulated them in Pixlr. Each one took a few hours to make.

Hasta luego.

I am sitting here right now (Saturday night, 8:47 pm CST, at home in Arkansas Post, listening to Carlos Nakai. It sort of makes me homesick for New Mexico. Beautiful, slow, peaceful, Native American flute music that sounds like it’s coming across a mesa or from some Anasazi ruins. If you ever need to seriously relax I recommend listening to Carlos.

The new cover for A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror as of November 15, 2019.

The new cover for A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror as of November 15, 2019.

My Quick, Initial Impressions of Michael Crichton’s Next

On Monday I drove to Dallas to meet my wife and family and lead them to our new residence in deepest, darkest Arkansas. The drive is six hours one way. In Texarkana (about half way), I stopped at Books-a-Million for a quick break, to get some iced tea at Joe Muggs, and to find out if they had any new audio-books available. There I found Next (published in 2006) by Michael Crichton. At five hours length, it seemed to be ideal for the remainder of my journey to Dallas and most of the journey back (I picked up Pride and Prejudice on the return leg). After the end of the novel was  an interview with Michael Crichton, which was probably the best part of the audio-book, because it provided insight into how he got the idea for the novel and Mr. Crichton discussed his fascinating views on the insane world of corporate patenting and marketing of gene technology. It’s a shame that his views weren’t as clearly expressed and understandable in the novel as in the interview.

During the interview Mr. Crichton said that he wanted to make the book reflect the complexity of the issues surrounding gene patents and corporate ownership of genes. That came across very well in the book. Mr. Crichton touched on numerous topics, which made for a complex novel.  What did not help was that instead of focusing on the stories of a few characters, he seemed to bring in one or two new characters every few minutes (remember I had the audio-book).  Not until the end of the novel did he focus on a few main characters. I felt like I needed a notebook and pen to keep track of all the characters and the minor plots behind each, of which there seemed to be a thousand. Most of these plots focused on the legal and ethical problems of gene technology, which, while often intriguing, did not make for an exciting book.  Indeed, while the first few pages showed promise of adventure with a detective trying to surveil someone who had stolen several embryos, after that there was little true action until the last few chapters. There is some corporate espionage and black marketing of genes and theft of chimeras (mostly human-animal hybrids) to make for some excitement, but nothing as action-packed as Jurassic Park.

If anyone wants to know why economy of characters is important, he/she should read this novel.

Next was not so bad that I threw it out the car window. It did have its highlights and lighter moments and probably because I have something of an analytical mind (as my friends and acquaintances tell me), it did keep me intrigued and curious as to how everything would be resolved. However, for me it was something of a mild disappointment considering that it came from the author of Jurassic ParkThe Andromeda Strain, and many other fine, entertaining novels.

Would I recommend this book to others? It wasn’t a waste of time, I will say that, but its focus on legal and ethical problems would probably bore some. I would recommend this to people who are interested in the law and issues behind the evolving world of gene technology and research and the corporate patenting of it or to people who are interested in the law and/or technology in general. Fans of Michael Crichton would probably find it interesting, but I doubt anyone would find it exhilarating.

I may write some more on this later, but these are my initial impressions. I have posted this review on Goodreads also.

Hasta luego.

 

 

“The Scent and Other Stories: the Dark Side of Love” is Available on Amazon Kindle and in Print

New Cover for The Scent and Other Stories

New cover as of November 21, 2019.

In this collection of short stories, I explore the dark, sometimes violent, sometimes twisted, sometimes touching side of love, the side kept not only from public view, but sometimes from our mates. Set in the modern era, these stories range from regretting losing a lover to forbidden interracial love in the hills of 1970’s Kentucky to a mother’s deathbed confession in present-day New Mexico to debating pursuing a hateful man’s wife to the callous manipulation of a lover in Texas.

To read a sample and to view my other works as well, visit my Amazon author’s page at: www.amazon.com/author/philslattery.

Praise for Stories Contained in “The Scent and Other Stories”:

The Scent

“This story has a lovely dreamy quality whilst being unsettling too. It lingers on half processed emotional experiences and leaves the reader asking ‘what if’ and ‘if only’ – feelings that are familiar for so many people.”

“You wrote about something we can all relate to – how, out of the blue, the scent of something evokes a memory of something long past; and the emotions we felt at the time! A clever story …”

“This descriptive piece about remembrance, the thought of what might have been, is a common sad thread that will resonate with those have experienced the pain of that one love lost. Slattery’s use of scent was exquisite as we feel Quinn’s pain and hope that he finds his peace, at last.”

Decision

“Fantastic writing – I held my breath for most of the story. The descriptions of the countryside and the people were beautiful and the tension compelling. This could possibly be the start of a novel or a suite of stories. Thank you very much and good luck with your writing in the future”

“Suspenseful and engaging. The dialogue and descriptions kept pace with the action. Well done.”

A Good Man

“Lots of detail examining an old question of how do you judge a person’s life. It left me wondering.”

“Great job capturing the social climate of the sixties. Good choice for how to present the story – deathbed “confession” by the mother. I enjoyed it.”

The Slightest of Indiscretions

“Excellent writing brings this poignant story to life and makes the reader work to understand more of what might be. Very many thanks for a satisfying, emotionally intelligent read…”

If you enjoy poems about love, check out my poetry collection Nocturne: Poems of Love, Distance, and the Night, a callous and disinterested lover.

 

Reviews Needed

I am seeking people to review my works and who post their reviews to markets in the US, Australia, New Zealand, or Canada. I offer my Kindle e-books for free periodically according to Amazon policy.  You can find my works on my Amazon author’s page.  Let me know which you would like to review and I will let you know when it available for free or set up a date that you can have it for fee. I am most interested in having reviewed either my short horror (A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror), my collected poetry (Nocturne: Poems of Love, Distance, and the Night, a callous and disinterested lover), my short fiction on relationships (The Scent and Other Stories), or my action-adventure novelette (Click).  The other two works are contained in A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror.

Note Friday, November 29 (Black Friday) on Your Calendars

The new cover for Nocturne as of November 15, 2019.

On Friday, November 29 (Black Friday) I will have four of my works free on Amazon Kindle: Click; A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror; The Scent and Other Stories; and Nocturne: Poems of Love, Distance, and the Night, a callous and disinterested lover.

I am doing this primary as an experiment in marketing and publicity. Yesterday, I offered the same four books as free and I got more takers than usual.

If you noticed, I have new covers for three except The Scent and Other Stories. I hope to have a new cover for it by Friday the 29th, however. This is another marketing tactic. Because I love black and white photography and often find it captivating and powerful, I have used it for most of my covers, trying to express something I see in each book.  But I see that most, more experienced authors use full color, flashy covers to grab the buyer’s attention. So I decided to give that a shot and see if sales pick up.  I tried to make each cover grab the attention of a passing buyer by making it not only in full color, but also expressing something powerful and exciting about the experience I hope to get across in my book.  I would like readers, not to judge my books by their covers, but maybe get a taste of

The new cover for Click as of November 15, 2019.

The new cover for Click as of November 15, 2019.

my books from their covers.

Anyway, I have included the three new covers in this article. If you would like to find out more about each, please go to my Amazon author’s blog. You can sign up for updates there or go to philslattery.wordpress.com and follow me there.

Oh, by the way, if you’re wondering where I got the covers, I downloaded some royalty-free public domain images from Pixabay (and maybe Pexels) and manipulated them in Pixlr. Each one took a few hours to make.

Hasta luego.

I am sitting here right now (Saturday night, 8:47 pm CST, at home in Arkansas Post, listening to Carlos Nakai. It sort of makes me homesick for New Mexico. Beautiful, slow, peaceful, Native American flute music that sounds like it’s coming across a mesa or from some Anasazi ruins. If you ever need to seriously relax I recommend listening to Carlos.

The new cover for A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror as of November 15, 2019.

The new cover for A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror as of November 15, 2019.

Phil Slattery’s Novelette “Click” is Available on Amazon Kindle and in Print

The new cover for Click as of November 15, 2019.

The new cover for Click as of November 15, 2019.

“Tell me again why we have to kill this guy and take his island,” said T.J., looking across the saltwater to a flat island a little over a hundred yards long and less than a hundred wide. Bushes and a few palms sheltered a small cabin and pier from the wind in all directions, except on the north side, where the shore was barren sand.

T.J. licked his lips and tasted the salt from the spray the small powerboat had kicked up on its trip down the Laguna Madre.  He wanted to head back to Corpus Christi soon. He liked the taste of the salt, because it reminded him of the taste of a margarita, but that was all he liked about this day. He had no love for the Texas heat or for the oppressive humidity or for the roll of the boat in the slight chop or for the bright sunlight filtering through the haze. He hated these more than he hated killing, but he did what he had to to make a living.

So begins my novelette Click, the story of Frank Martinez and the two drugrunners that want the island where he is staying.

Frank Martinez, a policeman with the Corpus Christi Police Department, has unintentionally shot and killed an unarmed man when called to intercede in a domestic violence case. To recover from the guilt while the incident is under investigation by the CCPD, Frank’s fiancée arranges for him to stay on a secluded island owned by her father’s former law partner. While dozing one night on a lounge chair in the yard, he awakes to find two hitmen slipping onto the island and breaking into the cabin. Are they after him? Are they after the cabin’s owner? Most importantly, how is he going to reach his pistol in his luggage in the bedroom?

My action-adventure/crime novelette, Click, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For either version and to read a sample, go to my Amazon author’s page:  Amazon.com/author/philslattery.

My concept of Frank Martinez as portrayed by a photo from the public domain.

Reader Charles Stacey gave “Click” five stars, calls it “A great suspenseful read and then a twist”, and comments: “Author has a wonderful ability to develop the characters using few words. Great foreshadowing to build suspense. And then a really outstanding twist at the end that left me smiling.”

An anonymous Amazon customer gave it five stars, called it “strong storytelling”, and commented, “This novelette is a quick and very entertaining read. It opened with a grabber (“Tell me again whey we have to kill this guy…”) and kept pulling me in from there. Frank Martinez is a cop trying to recover from a shooting incident in solitude on an island off the Texas gulf coast. T.J. and Benny are the bad guys. Their hunt and chase on the small island kept me in suspense. It ends with a surprise twist. Slattery proves here he is a good storyteller.”

While on my author’s page, check out my other works.

Cover of the original Kindle edition

Don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or other social media.

Check back frequently for updates or follow me (on the homepage).

 

Note Friday, November 29 (Black Friday) on Your Calendars

The new cover for Nocturne as of November 15, 2019.

On Friday, November 29 (Black Friday) I will have four of my works free on Amazon Kindle: Click; A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror; The Scent and Other Stories; and Nocturne: Poems of Love, Distance, and the Night, a callous and disinterested lover.

I am doing this primary as an experiment in marketing and publicity. Yesterday, I offered the same four books as free and I got more takers than usual.

If you noticed, I have new covers for three except The Scent and Other Stories. I hope to have a new cover for it by Friday the 29th, however. This is another marketing tactic. Because I love black and white photography and often find it captivating and powerful, I have used it for most of my covers, trying to express something I see in each book.  But I see that most, more experienced authors use full color, flashy covers to grab the buyer’s attention. So I decided to give that a shot and see if sales pick up.  I tried to make each cover grab the attention of a passing buyer by making it not only in full color, but also expressing something powerful and exciting about the experience I hope to get across in my book.  I would like readers, not to judge my books by their covers, but maybe get a taste of

The new cover for Click as of November 15, 2019.

The new cover for Click as of November 15, 2019.

my books from their covers.

Anyway, I have included the three new covers in this article. If you would like to find out more about each, please go to my Amazon author’s blog. You can sign up for updates there or go to philslattery.wordpress.com and follow me there.

Oh, by the way, if you’re wondering where I got the covers, I downloaded some royalty-free public domain images from Pixabay (and maybe Pexels) and manipulated them in Pixlr. Each one took a few hours to make.

Hasta luego.

I am sitting here right now (Saturday night, 8:47 pm CST, at home in Arkansas Post, listening to Carlos Nakai. It sort of makes me homesick for New Mexico. Beautiful, slow, peaceful, Native American flute music that sounds like it’s coming across a mesa or from some Anasazi ruins. If you ever need to seriously relax I recommend listening to Carlos.

The new cover for A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror as of November 15, 2019.

The new cover for A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror as of November 15, 2019.

“Diabolical: Three Tales of Jack Thurston and Revenge” is Available on Kindle and in Print

Please go to amazon.com/author/philslattery or Goodreads or any other social media to leave a review.

Jack Thurston is a retired professor of medieval literature and history. He is also a widower and father and a retired sorcerer who has returned to the black arts to exact revenge for the death of his wife, daughter, and brother. He has an intriguing position in the universe at a focal point of life, the afterlife, logic and reason, anger and hatred, the ancient and the modern worlds, grief and his attempts to escape grief through self-destruction. Though he wants to have the peace he once found with his wife, Agatha, he is pulled in many directions by circumstance and by his powerful negative emotions.

I am a fan of the old school horror practiced by such authors as H.P. Lovecraft, Poe, Edward Lucas White, and Arthur Machen.  I endeavor to make a story as terrifying and suspenseful for the reader as possible without resorting to gratuitous blood and gore for a simple shock or quick feeling of disgust.

This collection of three short tales is perfect for those who have only a few short breaks to escape into the hidden world of horror, black magic, sorcery, and anger-fueled revenge.

You can find this and other works at my Amazon author’s page:  www.amazon.com/author/philslattery.

Currently, Jack has a Twitter account (@jthurston666), where he has attracted a small following and where it has only recently been revealed that he is fictional. Jack has his own blog at jackthurstonblog.wordpress.com (a work in progress) and his own e-mail at jackthurston666@gmail.com.

Information on more social media accounts and other characters (as they are developed) can be found at: philslattery.wordpress.com. Please interact with him at any of his social media accounts as you would with a real person.

Show your appreciation for these stories by leaving a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or other social media.

If you enjoy horror, check out my collection of horror short stories A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror: Stories of wizards, werewolves, serial killers, alien worlds, and the damned, which includes these stories.

Note Friday, November 29 (Black Friday) on Your Calendars

The new cover for Nocturne as of November 15, 2019.

On Friday, November 29 (Black Friday) I will have four of my works free on Amazon Kindle: Click; A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror; The Scent and Other Stories; and Nocturne: Poems of Love, Distance, and the Night, a callous and disinterested lover.

I am doing this primary as an experiment in marketing and publicity. Yesterday, I offered the same four books as free and I got more takers than usual.

If you noticed, I have new covers for three except The Scent and Other Stories. I hope to have a new cover for it by Friday the 29th, however. This is another marketing tactic. Because I love black and white photography and often find it captivating and powerful, I have used it for most of my covers, trying to express something I see in each book.  But I see that most, more experienced authors use full color, flashy covers to grab the buyer’s attention. So I decided to give that a shot and see if sales pick up.  I tried to make each cover grab the attention of a passing buyer by making it not only in full color, but also expressing something powerful and exciting about the experience I hope to get across in my book.  I would like readers, not to judge my books by their covers, but maybe get a taste of

The new cover for Click as of November 15, 2019.

The new cover for Click as of November 15, 2019.

my books from their covers.

Anyway, I have included the three new covers in this article. If you would like to find out more about each, please go to my Amazon author’s blog. You can sign up for updates there or go to philslattery.wordpress.com and follow me there.

Oh, by the way, if you’re wondering where I got the covers, I downloaded some royalty-free public domain images from Pixabay (and maybe Pexels) and manipulated them in Pixlr. Each one took a few hours to make.

Hasta luego.

I am sitting here right now (Saturday night, 8:47 pm CST, at home in Arkansas Post, listening to Carlos Nakai. It sort of makes me homesick for New Mexico. Beautiful, slow, peaceful, Native American flute music that sounds like it’s coming across a mesa or from some Anasazi ruins. If you ever need to seriously relax I recommend listening to Carlos.

The new cover for A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror as of November 15, 2019.

The new cover for A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror as of November 15, 2019.

“A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror” is Available on Amazon Kindle and in Print

The new cover for A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror as of November 15, 2019.

The new cover for A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror as of November 15, 2019.

My e-book collection of horror shorts A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror” is available on Amazon Kindle.  For your copy, go to my Amazon author’s page (amazon.com/author/philslattery) where you can find links to my other works as well.

In this collection of published and previously unpublished stories of horror, I offer a look into the minds of people who perpetrate horrors, from acts of stupidity with unintended results to cold-hearted revenge to pure enjoyment to complete indifference. Settings range from 17th-century France in the heart of the werewolf trials to the resurrection of the Aztec black arts to a medicine man’s revenge in the Old West to the depths of Hell to mob vengeance and modern day necromancy to sociopathic serial killers and on to alien worlds in the distant future.

Don’t forget to show your appreciation for these tales by leaving a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or other social media.

 

P.S. Winn gave the collection four stars on Amazon, calling it “Great variety”, and commented: “The author has given readers a fantastic collection of varied horror stories. Short stories, flash fiction and even shorter micro fiction tales are included in a collection that might have readers keeping their lights on. I have read other books by this author and love the writing style and the way his words draw one into the tales.”

Comments on previously published stories (which are only a part of those in this collection) include:

Jay Manning, editor of Midnight Times commented in its Spring, 2006 issue: “Wolfsheim” is basically a traditional horror story that tells the tale of a small European village confronted by the threat of werewolves. If you like stories about lycans, you definitely need to check this one out. Great stuff.”

Publisher Charlie Fish of Fiction on the Web summarizes A “Tale of Hell” as a “… chilling vision of hell”. Other comments on “A Tale of Hell” from readers of Fiction on the Web:

“An intense and well paced story, cleverly leading the reader up a number of garden paths before Jack’s reality finally clarifies and appears in all its horror. The writing is focused and spare as Jack’s malevolent characteristics and idiosyncrasies manifest themselves…Overall a strong tale that lingers in the imagination…”

“brilliantly descriptive piece on man´s apparently unstoppable descent, literally into hell,…”

” Enjoyed this story. I thought it was nicely written. Started with a familiar vision of hell, but added several unique treatments; kept me interested in how it all would end. Thanks”

Publisher Charlie Fish of Fiction on the Web summarizes “Dream Warrior” as a “…powerful revenge epic about a man who visits his Mexican grandfather for spiritual guidance after a violent crime results in the death if his fiancée”. Fiction on the Web readers commented:

“quite literally a rite of passage, mystical and with an interesting payoff, one which Miguel may have to reckon with in time. some very good writing and characterisation. well done”

“…this is a rite of passage, complex and rich with significance. The cultural invocations are vivid and intense, the work of a writer in his/her full stride. The future for Miguel, who knows? The readers interest is fully engaged with what is to come…”

“Really enjoyed the story-kept me up past my bedtime reading it!”

“I loved the concept, was fascinated by the almost hallucinatory detail of legend with its fatal shadowlands.”

Reader comments on “Murder by Plastic” include:

“Chilling and brilliantly economical”

“Very well-paced and intriguing”

“Fabulous story! Five stars!”

Follow me using the link on the homepage or check back frequently for updates.

Don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or on other social media.

Note Friday, November 29 (Black Friday) on Your Calendars

The new cover for Nocturne as of November 15, 2019.

On Friday, November 29 (Black Friday) I will have four of my works free on Amazon Kindle: Click; A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror; The Scent and Other Stories; and Nocturne: Poems of Love, Distance, and the Night, a callous and disinterested lover.

I am doing this primary as an experiment in marketing and publicity. Yesterday, I offered the same four books as free and I got more takers than usual.

If you noticed, I have new covers for three except The Scent and Other Stories. I hope to have a new cover for it by Friday the 29th, however. This is another marketing tactic. Because I love black and white photography and often find it captivating and powerful, I have used it for most of my covers, trying to express something I see in each book.  But I see that most, more experienced authors use full color, flashy covers to grab the buyer’s attention. So I decided to give that a shot and see if sales pick up.  I tried to make each cover grab the attention of a passing buyer by making it not only in full color, but also expressing something powerful and exciting about the experience I hope to get across in my book.  I would like readers, not to judge my books by their covers, but maybe get a taste of

The new cover for Click as of November 15, 2019.

The new cover for Click as of November 15, 2019.

my books from their covers.

Anyway, I have included the three new covers in this article. If you would like to find out more about each, please go to my Amazon author’s blog. You can sign up for updates there or go to philslattery.wordpress.com and follow me there.

Oh, by the way, if you’re wondering where I got the covers, I downloaded some royalty-free public domain images from Pixabay (and maybe Pexels) and manipulated them in Pixlr. Each one took a few hours to make.

Hasta luego.

I am sitting here right now (Saturday night, 8:47 pm CST, at home in Arkansas Post, listening to Carlos Nakai. It sort of makes me homesick for New Mexico. Beautiful, slow, peaceful, Native American flute music that sounds like it’s coming across a mesa or from some Anasazi ruins. If you ever need to seriously relax I recommend listening to Carlos.

The new cover for A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror as of November 15, 2019.

The new cover for A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror as of November 15, 2019.

Phil Slattery’s Sci-Fi Novelette “Alien Embrace” is Available on Amazon Kindle and in Print

Logan Rickover, owner of a hardware store in a small town in Kentucky, has lucid dreams of life as an astronaut that intrude upon his life at any moment. Which of his lives is real? The quiet paradise of Danville or the terrifying jungle world of Stheno D?

This novelette is a terrific read for those who have only a quick break to take a breather and escape to another reality.  In this sci-fi thriller, I endeavor to blur the boundaries between alien-induced hallucinations, the brutal reality of the present, and memories of an idyllic past.

Ron Baker calls it “Nightmare Planet”, gives it five stars, and comments: “This short has exactly what I like in science fiction: planet exploration and bizarre otherworldly aliens, in this case insectoid. The horrendous purpose the aliens have for the hapless astronauts who make planetfall to find the numerous previous missing exploration teams is grisly. I love the mystery of the planet and the authors device of alternating from the aliens bizarre perspective then switching to the astronauts point of view.”

Don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or other social media.

Check back frequently for updates.

The Saturday Night Special: “The Hound” by H.P. Lovecraft (1922)

In my tortured ears there sounds unceasingly a nightmare whirring and flapping, and a faint distant baying as of some gigantic hound. It is not dream – it is not, I fear, even madness – for too much has already happened to give me these merciful doubts.

St John is a mangled corpse; I alone know why, and such is my knowledge that I am about to blow out my brains for fear I shall be mangled in the same way. Down unlit and illimitable corridors of eldrith phantasy sweeps the black, shapeless Nemesis that drives me to self-annihilation.

H.P. Lovecraft, 1915

H.P. Lovecraft, 1915

May heaven forgive the folly and morbidity which led us both to so monstrous a fate! Wearied with the commonplaces of a prosaic world; where even the joys of romance and adventure soon grow stale, St John and I had followed enthusiastically every aesthetic and intellectual movement which promised respite from our devastating ennui. The enigmas of the symbolists and the ecstasies of the pre-Raphaelites all were ours in their time, but each new mood was drained too soon, of its diverting novelty and appeal.

Only the somber philosophy of the decadents could help us, and this we found potent only by increasing gradually the depth and diabolism of our penetrations. Baudelaire and Huysmans were soon exhausted of thrills, till finally there remained for us only the more direct stimuli of unnatural personal experiences and adventures. It was this frightful emotional need which led us eventually to that detestable course which even in my present fear I mention with shame and timidity – that hideous extremity of human outrage, the abhorred practice of grave-robbing.

I cannot reveal the details of our shocking expeditions, or catalogue even partly the worst of the trophies adorning the nameless museum we prepared in the great stone house where we jointly dwelt, alone and servantless. Our museum was a blasphemous, unthinkable place, where with the satanic taste of neurotic virtuosi we had assembled an universe of terror and decay to excite our jaded sensibilities. It was a secret room, far, far, underground; where huge winged daemons carven of basalt and onyx vomited from wide grinning mouths weird green and orange light, and hidden pneumatic pipes ruffled into kaleidoscopic dances of death the lines of red charnel things hand in hand woven in voluminous black hangings. Through these pipes came at will the odors our moods most craved; sometimes the scent of pale funeral lilies; sometimes the narcotic incense of imagined Eastern shrines of the kingly dead, and sometimes – how I shudder to recall it! – the frightful, soul-upheaving stenches of the uncovered-grave.

Around the walls of this repellent chamber were cases of antique mummies alternating with comely, lifelike bodies perfectly stuffed and cured by the taxidermist’s art, and with headstones snatched from the oldest churchyards of the world. Niches here and there contained skulls of all shapes, and heads preserved in various stages of dissolution. There one might find the rotting, bald pates of famous noblemen, and the fresh and radiantly golden heads of new-buried children.

Statues and paintings there were, all of fiendish subjects and some executed by St John and myself. A locked portfolio, bound in tanned human skin, held certain unknown and unnameable drawings which it was rumored Goya had perpetrated but dared not acknowledge. There were nauseous musical instruments, stringed, brass, and wood-wind, on which St John and I sometimes produced dissonances of exquisite morbidity and cacodaemoniacal ghastliness; whilst in a multitude of inlaid ebony cabinets reposed the most incredible and unimaginable variety of tomb-loot ever assembled by human madness and perversity. It is of this loot in particular that I must not speak – thank God I had the courage to destroy it long before I thought of destroying myself!

The predatory excursions on which we collected our unmentionable treasures were always artistically memorable events. We were no vulgar ghouls, but worked only under certain conditions of mood, landscape, environment, weather, season, and moonlight. These pastimes were to us the most exquisite form of aesthetic expression, and we gave their details a fastidious technical care. An inappropriate hour, a jarring lighting effect, or a clumsy manipulation of the damp sod, would almost totally destroy for us that ecstatic titillation which followed the exhumation of some ominous, grinning secret of the earth. Our quest for novel scenes and piquant conditions was feverish and insatiate – St John was always the leader, and he it was who led the way at last to that mocking, accursed spot which brought us our hideous and inevitable doom.

By what malign fatality were we lured to that terrible Holland churchyard? I think it was the dark rumor and legendry, the tales of one buried for five centuries, who had himself been a ghoul in his time and had stolen a potent thing from a mighty sepulchre. I can recall the scene in these final moments – the pale autumnal moon over the graves, casting long horrible shadows; the grotesque trees, drooping sullenly to meet the neglected grass and the crumbling slabs; the vast legions of strangely colossal bats that flew against the moon; the antique ivied church pointing a huge spectral finger at the livid sky; the phosphorescent insects that danced like death-fires under the yews in a distant corner; the odors of mould, vegetation, and less explicable things that mingled feebly with the night-wind from over far swamps and seas; and, worst of all, the faint deep-toned baying of some gigantic hound which we could neither see nor definitely place. As we heard this suggestion of baying we shuddered, remembering the tales of the peasantry; for he whom we sought had centuries before been found in this self same spot, torn and mangled by the claws and teeth of some unspeakable beast.

I remember how we delved in the ghoul’s grave with our spades, and how we thrilled at the picture of ourselves, the grave, the pale watching moon, the horrible shadows, the grotesque trees, the titanic bats, the antique church, the dancing death-fires, the sickening odors, the gently moaning night-wind, and the strange, half-heard directionless baying of whose objective existence we could scarcely be sure.

Then we struck a substance harder than the damp mould, and beheld a rotting oblong box crusted with mineral deposits from the long undisturbed ground. It was incredibly tough and thick, but so old that we finally pried it open and feasted our eyes on what it held.

Much – amazingly much – was left of the object despite the lapse of five hundred years. The skeleton, though crushed in places by the jaws of the thing that had killed it, held together with surprising firmness, and we gloated over the clean white skull and its long, firm teeth and its eyeless sockets that once had glowed with a charnel fever like our own. In the coffin lay an amulet of curious and exotic design, which had apparently been worn around the sleeper’s neck. It was the oddly conventionalised figure of a crouching winged hound, or sphinx with a semi-canine face, and was exquisitely carved in antique Oriental fashion from a small piece of green jade. The expression of its features was repellent in the extreme, savoring at once of death, bestiality and malevolence. Around the base was an inscription in characters which neither St John nor I could identify; and on the bottom, like a maker’s seal, was graven a grotesque and formidable skull.

Immediately upon beholding this amulet we knew that we must possess it; that this treasure alone was our logical pelf from the centuried grave. Even had its outlines been unfamiliar we would have desired it, but as we looked more closely we saw that it was not wholly unfamiliar. Alien it indeed was to all art and literature which sane and balanced readers know, but we recognized it as the thing hinted of in the forbidden Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred; the ghastly soul-symbol of the corpse-eating cult of inaccessible Leng, in Central Asia. All too well did we trace the sinister lineaments described by the old Arab daemonologist; lineaments, he wrote, drawn from some obscure supernatural manifestation of the souls of those who vexed and gnawed at the dead.

Seizing the green jade object, we gave a last glance at the bleached and cavern-eyed face of its owner and closed up the grave as we found it. As we hastened from the abhorrent spot, the stolen amulet in St John’s pocket, we thought we saw the bats descend in a body to the earth we had so lately rifled, as if seeking for some cursed and unholy nourishment. But the autumn moon shone weak and pale, and we could not be sure.

So, too, as we sailed the next day away from Holland to our home, we thought we heard the faint distant baying of some gigantic hound in the background. But the autumn wind moaned sad and wan, and we could not be sure.

Less than a week after our return to England, strange things began to happen. We lived as recluses; devoid of friends, alone, and without servants in a few rooms of an ancient manor-house on a bleak and unfrequented moor; so that our doors were seldom disturbed by the knock of the visitor.

Now, however, we were troubled by what seemed to be a frequent fumbling in the night, not only around the doors but around the windows also, upper as well as lower. Once we fancied that a large, opaque body darkened the library window when the moon was shining against it, and another time we thought we heard a whirring or flapping sound not far off. On each occasion investigation revealed nothing, and we began to ascribe the occurrences to imagination which still prolonged in our ears the faint far baying we thought we had heard in the Holland churchyard. The jade amulet now reposed in a niche in our museum, and sometimes we burned a strangely scented candle before it. We read much in Alhazred’s Necronomicon about its properties, and about the relation of ghosts’ souls to the objects it symbolized; and were disturbed by what we read.

Then terror came.

On the night of September 24, 19–, I heard a knock at my chamber door. Fancying it St John’s, I bade the knocker enter, but was answered only by a shrill laugh. There was no one in the corridor. When I aroused St John from his sleep, he professed entire ignorance of the event, and became as worried as I. It was the night that the faint, distant baying over the moor became to us a certain and dreaded reality.

Four days later, whilst we were both in the hidden museum, there came a low, cautious scratching at the single door which led to the secret library staircase. Our alarm was now divided, for, besides our fear of the unknown, we had always entertained a dread that our grisly collection might be discovered. Extinguishing all lights, we proceeded to the door and threw it suddenly open; whereupon we felt an unaccountable rush of air, and heard, as if receding far away, a queer combination of rustling, tittering, and articulate chatter. Whether we were mad, dreaming, or in our senses, we did not try to determine. We only realized, with the blackest of apprehensions, that the apparently disembodied chatter was beyond a doubt in the Dutch language.

After that we lived in growing horror and fascination. Mostly we held to the theory that we were jointly going mad from our life of unnatural excitements, but sometimes it pleased us more to dramatize ourselves as the victims of some creeping and appalling doom. Bizarre manifestations were now too frequent to count. Our lonely house was seemingly alive with the presence of some malign being whose nature we could not guess, and every night that daemoniac baying rolled over the wind-swept moor, always louder and louder. On October 29 we found in the soft earth underneath the library window a series of footprints utterly impossible to describe. They were as baffling as the hordes of great bats which haunted the old manor-house in unprecedented and increasing numbers.

The horror reached a culmination on November 18, when St John, walking home after dark from the dismal railway station, was seized by some frightful carnivorous thing and torn to ribbons. His screams had reached the house, and I had hastened to the terrible scene in time to hear a whir of wings and see a vague black cloudy thing silhouetted against the rising moon.

My friend was dying when I spoke to him, and he could not answer coherently. All he could do was to whisper, “The amulet – that damned thing -”

Then he collapsed, an inert mass of mangled flesh.

I buried him the next midnight in one of our neglected gardens, and mumbled over his body one of the devilish rituals he had loved in life. And as I pronounced the last daemoniac sentence I heard afar on the moor the faint baying of some gigantic hound. The moon was up, but I dared not look at it. And when I saw on the dim-lighted moor a wide-nebulous shadow sweeping from mound to mound, I shut my eyes and threw myself face down upon the ground. When I arose, trembling, I know not how much later, I staggered into the house and made shocking obeisances before the enshrined amulet of green jade.

Being now afraid to live alone in the ancient house on the moor, I departed on the following day for London, taking with me the amulet after destroying by fire and burial the rest of the impious collection in the museum. But after three nights I heard the baying again, and before a week was over felt strange eyes upon me whenever it was dark. One evening as I strolled on Victoria Embankment for some needed air, I saw a black shape obscure one of the reflections of the lamps in the water. A wind, stronger than the night-wind, rushed by, and I knew that what had befallen St John must soon befall me.

The next day I carefully wrapped the green jade amulet and sailed for Holland. What mercy I might gain by returning the thing to its silent, sleeping owner I knew not; but I felt that I must try any step conceivably logical. What the hound was, and why it had pursued me, were questions still vague; but I had first heard the baying in that ancient churchyard, and every subsequent event including St John’s dying whisper had served to connect the curse with the stealing of the amulet. Accordingly I sank into the nethermost abysses of despair when, at an inn in Rotterdam, I discovered that thieves had despoiled me of this sole means of salvation.

The baying was loud that evening, and in the morning I read of a nameless deed in the vilest quarter of the city. The rabble were in terror, for upon an evil tenement had fallen a red death beyond the foulest previous crime of the neighborhood. In a squalid thieves’ den an entire family had been torn to shreds by an unknown thing which left no trace, and those around had heard all night a faint, deep, insistent note as of a gigantic hound.

So at last I stood again in the unwholesome churchyard where a pale winter moon cast hideous shadows and leafless trees drooped sullenly to meet the withered, frosty grass and cracking slabs, and the ivied church pointed a jeering finger at the unfriendly sky, and the night-wind howled maniacally from over frozen swamps and frigid seas. The baying was very faint now, and it ceased altogether as I approached the ancient grave I had once violated, and frightened away an abnormally large horde of bats which had been hovering curiously around it.

I know not why I went thither unless to pray, or gibber out insane pleas and apologies to the calm white thing that lay within; but, whatever my reason, I attacked the half frozen sod with a desperation partly mine and partly that of a dominating will outside myself. Excavation was much easier than I expected, though at one point I encountered a queer interruption; when a lean vulture darted down out of the cold sky and pecked frantically at the grave-earth until I killed him with a blow of my spade. Finally I reached the rotting oblong box and removed the damp nitrous cover. This is the last rational act I ever performed.

For crouched within that centuried coffin, embraced by a closepacked nightmare retinue of huge, sinewy, sleeping bats, was the bony thing my friend and I had robbed; not clean and placid as we had seen it then, but covered with caked blood and shreds of alien flesh and hair, and leering sentiently at me with phosphorescent sockets and sharp ensanguined fangs yawning twistedly in mockery of my inevitable doom. And when it gave from those grinning jaws a deep, sardonic bay as of some gigantic hound, and I saw that it held in its gory filthy claw the lost and fateful amulet of green jade, I merely screamed and ran away idiotically, my screams soon dissolving into peals of hysterical laughter.

Madness rides the star-wind… claws and teeth sharpened on centuries of corpses… dripping death astride a bacchanale of bats from nigh-black ruins of buried temples of Belial… Now, as the baying of that dead fleshless monstrosity grows louder and louder, and the stealthy whirring and flapping of those accursed web-wings closer and closer, I shall seek with my revolver the oblivion which is my only refuge from the unnamed and unnameable.