The Forgotten Monk

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A Man Without A Past

Cipher is a monk: a master of the Deadly Arts, able to dismantle enemies using his bare hands. He is immune to lies, and can see volumes of information in the smallest detail.

Unfortunately, that’s all he knows. His real name, his history – all stolen by an unknown foe.

Without memory or purpose, Cipher can only follow his instinct to find bad people, and hit them until they stop doing bad things. Joining a crime-fighting cavalry unit in a remote corner of the Dragon Empire, he finds himself allied with a singing orc, an indecisive elf, and a flying carpet that doesn’t like heights. Together they’ll take on a crazy halfling death cultist, a love-maddened alchemist, a charming drunkard dog-thief, a blinded arch-demon in chains, and the bizarre Mantischorgoth.

The Forgotten Monk is high fantasy and high adventure, woven into a story of strong friendships, deadly hatreds, ingenious criminal mysteries and baffling affairs of the heart.

 

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Teasers to Lovecraft: Nick Mamatas

Letters to Lovecraft is our newest genre-blending anthology of original fiction, and to give readers a taste of what they can expect we’ve been posting excerpts from each of the stories. We now come to the haunting final piece of the collection, “The Semi-Finished Basement” by Nick Mamatas.


There were other groups all over the world, or so the members of the group would have liked to think. It wouldn’t be fair if they were all alone, all alone with the unbelievable truth.

And statistically, it was impossible that the four people in this room — two women, two men — were the only ones who had noticed the great change. And if there were others, it stood to reason that they would have found one another, formed groups. Met once a month, to talk about it, three months running, like this group had.

Maybe one of the groups was comprised of important people. Philosophers and scientists, poets and soldiers. People dedicated to getting to the bottom of what had happened, to setting the world aright.

This group, with its four women and two men, was not that group. It was, when all was said and done, more of a support group.

“So, anything?” Lurlene asked. The group met at her house, because she kept it neat and always offered snacks and soft drinks — diet soda pops and lemonade from a powder mix. Her husband kept guns, and that made the two men feel safer. They met in the basement for the same reason. It was hard to feel safe in a room with windows these days.

“I like these blondies,” Nashawna said. She licked her fingers. She only felt safe, irrationally so, when Lurlene’s black cat jumped into her lap and made himself comfortable, and purred. Which he did at the start of every meeting. He was there now, so Nashawna held her blondie in a napkin with her left hand.

Aaron looked at Nashawna, and the black cat, and the blondie, and said, “Ha, that should be a brownie.”

“Don’t,” Nashawna said.

Lurlene glanced back and forth between the two of them, and then stared meaningfully at Stewart. “Forget that, Aaron. Just tell them what you recall.”

“The crawling chaos,” Aaron said. “I’ve been thinking a lot about Egypt lately…”

For the rest, get Letters to Lovecraft from Stone Skin Press.


Nick Mamatas is the author of several novels, including Love is the Law and The Last Weekend, and the Lovecraftian mash-ups Move Under Ground and The Damned Highway (cowritten with Brian Keene). His Lovecraftian fiction has appeared in ChiZine, Lovecraft Unbound, Shotguns v. Cthulhu and many other venues. Much of it will be collected in The Nickronomicon, to be published by Innsmouth Free Press in the autumn of 2014. His non-Lovecraftian work has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Best American Mystery Stories 2013 and a wide assortment of magazines, websites, and anthologies. Also an editor and anthologist, Nick’s latest editorial works include Phantasm Japan and the essay collection The Battle Royale Slam Book, both from Haikasoru.

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Teasers to Lovecraft: Molly Tanzer

Letters to Lovecraft is our newest genre-blending anthology of original fiction, and to ring in the new year for our readers we’ll be posting excerpts from each of the stories. Our penultimate piece comes from Molly Tanzer, and takes us on a post-apocalyptic poaching expedition through a strangely-altered version of London…


A quick look around showed me I’d landed in a pretty typical park. Nothing spooky or abject — just a dark, quiet wood. So I looped a long length of rope around the base of the linden and threw it back over the wall for Burderop. Moments later, I saw her pulling herself overhand up and over the carpet, bag of ferrets on her back like I’d worn my rolled-up rug. Freeing the rug, she tossed it down before dropping beside where I stood at the base of the tree.“All right,” she whispered, eyes darting around every which way. “What’s the plan?”

“To our right are the former Apsley House gardens,” I whispered back. “According to my map, if we head left, there should be the remains of paths that will take us to the Serpentine. A long lake,” I clarified, when Burderop looked mystified by this. “I say we just…

take a tour. See what’s to be seen, right? If we come upon a run, we’ll set snares — or let your ferrets do their thing — but this place is supposed to be huge. We might want to just explore first.”

Burderop grumbled something about a waste of a night, but I ignored her. The danger, the uncertainty, it was making me feel alive again. Like Eve exploring the Garden of Eden once she knew there was a tree of knowledge hidden somewhere. I glanced up, and every leaf looked like a yawning black hole in space, the moonlight bending around them impossibly. It made me feel wild, free. I had to see more — felt an irresistible compulsion to see it all. Pushing heedlessly through the brush, I came upon the broken remains of a road, and on the other side of it lay yet denser woodland.

“Let’s go,” I whispered, mostly to myself, and made a break for it. The heels of my brogues fell like hammers on the shattered asphalt; I could hear Burderop panting behind me. I realized the strange sense of exhilaration I was experiencing was doing things to my senses, judgment not excepted. Still, I pressed on, winding between oaks and slipping in amongst low bushes, until I came to a circular clearing bordered by four overgrown stands of bare, thorny rosebushes, with a fountain, dry now, of a fish and a sea nymph posing together in the center. There remained some rotted-out benches for admiring the scenery. Inspired, I jumped up on the lip of the fountain and imitated the nymph’s pose, one hand behind my head, the opposite hip cocked out.

“Are you insane?” Burderop hissed at me, pulling at the hem of my trousers. “Get down, now. Someone might see us! Might have seen us already!”

She had a point. But the more I saw of it, Hyde Park looked so unkempt as to cast doubt on the rumor that it was an immaculately curated hunting ground. I almost said as much, but caught myself in time. I knew mentioning my observation would almost certainly have Burderop clamoring to leave immediately — she so hated to come home empty-handed. She was close to putting her foot down already, I could tell.

“The map said if we carry on this way…”

“Damn your map!”

“Steady on,” I said. “Let’s —”

“This is stupid! Haven’t you noticed?”

I hopped down off the pedestal. “Noticed what?”

“Are you daft?” She shuddered. “It feels dead in here!”

“Eh?”

“I dunno!” She looked up and around where we stood, up at the leaves and then back to me. She was afraid of something, I realized. I’d never known Burderop to be afraid of anything. But something had spooked her good and proper. “It’s a… dead… place,” she said. “Not like, where the dead are buried. Animals live in graveyards, and the trees feel… alive.”

I put my hands on my hips and shook my head at her. “Trees feel alive, do they?”

“Shut up! Just listen!”

I stood very still and listened. Beyond the pounding of my heart and the squirming ferrets rubbing against the burlap of Burderop’s sack, I couldn’t hear anything strange. Then I realized it wasn’t that I couldn’t hear anything — there was nothing to be heard. That was admittedly queer. It had been quite a windy night when we approached Hyde Park, but now we were inside the walls it was deeply, perfectly still. Not even the leaves at the very tops of the trees were rustling…

For the rest, get Letters to Lovecraft from Stone Skin Press.


Molly Tanzer is the author of the Sydney J. Bounds Award and Wonderland Book Award–nominated A Pretty Mouth, as well as Rumbullion and Other Liminal Libations and the forthcoming novels Vermilion (Word Horde, April 2015) and The Pleasure Merchant (Lazy Fascist Press, November 2015). She lives in Boulder, CO, where she mostly writes about fops arguing with each other. She tweets @molly_the_tanz, and blogs — infrequently — at http://mollytanzer.com.

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Teasers to Lovecraft: Robin D. Laws

Letters to Lovecraft is our newest genre-blending anthology of original fiction, and to ring in the new year for our readers we’ll be posting excerpts from each of the stories. We close out this week with a salty sea story from Robin D. Laws, a yarn that takes us all the way from the Portsmouth docks to a sun-drenched atoll in the South Pacific. Nice as that may sound, though, this desert isle is less Gilligan’s Island and more William Hope Hodgson by way of Clive Barker…


At Cape Verde, the Dido left African shores for the open ocean. With nothing but water in all directions, and sky above, Will let himself fall into an automatic state. At night he might briefly be visited by the urge to sob, and, in dreams, Elizabeth once or twice came to him to remind him that she once had lived. But all in all, the spell the voyage was meant to have on him took hold. It blurred time for him as they reached South America, paralleling its coast from Brazil down south to the Horn. As they approached this place of fabled navigational peril, Edward, who as protocol demanded had been keeping company with his fellow warrant officers, resumed his presence in Will’s daily routines. Lazy days would end when they hit the storms. Booms would bend and shatter. Masts could fall. Lynas was the ship’s doctor, but the Dowlands, uncle and nephew, were doctors of the ship. On its health, the lives of all depended.

Yet the Horn, in its caprice, withheld all but the mildest of its assaults. The Dido sailed up South America’s western coast after only three days of repair work.

After the ship turned at Peru into the open Pacific, a shift in mood intruded on Will’s isolation. The tang of coming violence Will perceived at Portsmouth resurfaced. Throughout the voyage Codrington had conducted himself as any sailor could wish, neither cruelly punitive nor dangerously lax, yet the men regarded him with increasingly sullen apprehension. Crewmen whispered together, stopping when Will neared. He thought to go to his uncle, but needed greater grounds for it. As a warrant officer, Edward would be obliged to report the obscurest hint of mutiny.

Halfway between Peru and the islands, fever swept the ship. A third of the crew, the Dowlands luckily excluded, fell ill with it. Rumor spread that it was the plague; Dr. Lynas called all hands on deck to assure them otherwise. A landsman died and was buried at sea. The other victims were laid up for a week or so — except for Codrington, who could not shake it and remained abed, ceding command to the main master, a taciturn man named Tozey.

Lynas caught Will staring at the captain’s closed cabin door and startled him by sneaking up behind him and breathing a rum fog into his ear: “Worried, young Dowland?”

Will made an awkward spectacle of himself, turning toward the surgeon even as he backed away. “Hoping the captain recovers, doctor.”

“As am I, surely. It blots a surgeon’s résumé, to lose his captain, no matter how arbitrarily.”

“Could it be something in addition to the fever?”

“You’re a medical man now, Dowland?”

Will couldn’t understand why he was still talking, but he was. “Nothing was… for example, introduced into his food?”

“Are you asking me, young Dowland, if the captain has been poisoned?”

“Just a funny hunch. Maybe I have a touch of fever myself.”

“I’ll come round later to examine you,” said Lynas, as Will slipped away.

About an hour later, his uncle came to him, features stony. “The doctor tells me you think Codrington has been poisoned.”

“I have no cause to think that,” Will stammered.

“That is good. Because he hasn’t. Coincidentally. Simply lingering fever, nothing more. Which is as fine a sign that Providence smiles upon us as any I could foresee. For his sake, Will, hope he stays that way. For yours, wait and see. Soon you’ll receive the gift I brought you all this way for. And then you’ll understand. Until then, be smart and wait and watch…”

For the rest, get Letters to Lovecraft from Stone Skin Press.


Robin D. Laws’s most recent works of fiction are his collection of Chambers-inspired weird stories New Tales of the Yellow Sign and the fantasy novel Blood of the City. Other novels include Pierced Heart and The Worldwound Gambit. As creative director for Stone Skin Press, he has edited such anthologies as Shotguns v. Cthulhu and The Lion and the Aardvark. He is best known for his groundbreaking roleplaying game design work, as seen in Hillfolk, The Esoterrorists, Feng Shui and HeroQuest. He is one-half of the Golden Geek Award–winning podcast Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff, and can be found online at robindlaws.com.

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Teasers to Lovecraft: Kirsten Alene

Letters to Lovecraft is our newest genre-blending anthology of original fiction, and to ring in the new year for our readers we’ll be posting excerpts from each of the stories. Today’s entry comes from Kirsten Alene, and takes us to a strange university where stranger things are afoot. This may not be Miskatonic U, but credit hours from one may be applied at the other…


I have been growing bats in the attic of the faculty hall for a long time. The warm, humid atmosphere suits them, and they appear to flourish under my care. Sometimes I take their soft, fat mammalian bodies in my hand and press their chests against my cheek. They are paralyzed by the smooth softness, and the only part of them that moves is their heart, which beats as fast as the vibrato of a piccolo. The morning that the sun rises orange through the rosary window on the fourth floor of the faculty building, I am tending the bats in the attic, and I miss what transpires on the first floor, in the faculty lounge.

Someone rushes up the stairs to tell me, “Anna Beth, there’s been a fire. Anna Beth, there’s been some sort of fire.”

Downstairs the hallway is blackened and crumbling, but the walls are all intact. Teachers and students, a few aids, and a school nurse are walking around the place, expressing their dismay and despair by guttural emissions, which together add up to a general monastic hum.

Under the remains of a light fixture, which sparks benignly overhead, is a small blonde thing with ashes fluffing out from her head in a halo. She’s very dirty, and the other faculty members do not approve. Who does she think she is, running around setting fires and then becoming blackened by them? She’s just ruining the whole atmosphere of tragedy, standing there getting everything dirty where there wasn’t any dirt before.

The host of helpful faculty members who supposedly appeared when the explosion sounded are closing in on me, relaying information they think must be relevant in catlike whispers near my ears so that no one else will hear and take credit for their powers of observation.

“A sign like a snake and a cross,” says one.

“And the smoke was a bright reddish green, Anna Beth, tinged, a chemical reaction of some sort.”

“I was, of course, preparing for my lecture and then the sound… like an elephant trumpet.”

“Like a bassoon.”

“Like a man screaming.”

Then, the only really relevant piece of information comes from Peabody, a professor of Japanese ceremonial dress: “I think a man was inside.”

The little blonde child turns slowly to face Peabody. My first instinct is to remove her from the nurse’s claws, which are grasping at her, searching for wounds. But when she opens her mouth to speak, she no longer looks vulnerable at all.

“There was a man inside,” she says…

For the rest, get Letters to Lovecraft from Stone Skin Press.

 


Kirsten Alene is the author of three books, most recently Japan Conquers the Galaxy (Eraserhead Press, 2013). Her fiction has appeared in a number of publications in print and online, including In Heaven, Everything Is Fine: Fiction Inspired by David Lynch; Innsmouth Magazine; and New Dead Families. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, dog, and cat.

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Teasers to Lovecraft: David Yale Ardanuy

Letters to Lovecraft is our newest genre-blending anthology of original fiction, and to ring in the new year for our readers we’ll be posting excerpts from each of the stories. Today’s piece is an appetizer from David Yale Ardanuy’s “One Last Meal, Before The End,” and marks the debut of an exciting new writer. It takes us far from the comforts and security of the modern world, depositing us in a remote trading post in the waning days of the 18th century. As snows blow in to blanket the American Northeast, this may be just the thing to warm you up…


We started out at mid-morning and traveled north about six miles, where we stopped at the Eight Stones River crossing to rest and eat. Francois’ home was located about three miles away from that point, due east along the river. I recall the weather was pleasant along the way; a warm sun had miraculously appeared for most of our trip and the duration of our rest. I remember the air had a deliciously crisp taste, heavily scented with spruce and pine. I was considering how fortunate we were to have had such splendid weather after months of brutal winter, when Sabian reminded me of the grim task at hand. We continued on in hopes of reaching Francois’ cabin before nightfall.

As we walked along the river, I remember noting an abundance of trees snapped in half at mid-trunk, some fifty feet from the ground in some cases. Following my gaze, Sabian said, “It’s the ice and the wind that does it. The tops freeze up with ice and snow, then the wind comes through and snaps off the tops. Just like you or I would tear the drumstick off an overcooked chicken.”

He said this easily enough, but the remark disquieted me. As we walked I imagined some monstrous hand reaching down from the sky and tearing treetops off to stick in its mouth, chewing the bark and ice as a man might relish the crispy skin of a roasted hen. With these and other dark thoughts did I wile away our march.

Looking back on it now, it seems that as we drew closer to the damned place a pallor of cruel wickedness settled on to both my thoughts and the landscape. All around, the broken trees increased in number, and large formations of ice hung from the pine boughs and clung to the trunks, or reared up from the ground. It was almost as if they had frozen in specific places in a vaguely organized way. It struck me as… unnatural.

Francois’ cabin appeared as we rounded a large patch of granite boulders. It was a small shack, perched quaintly atop a rise, at the edge of a steep, tree-covered embankment, overlooking the frozen Eight Stones River below. No smoke rose from the cabin, a truly ominous sign as few veterans of the northern winters would be foolish enough to allow their fire to go out before the first thaw of spring.

“What a wretched little place,” Sabian remarked. “Hopefully it’s dry inside.”

I briefly imagined old Francois inside, raving mad in the dark. A thought that startled me with its clarity, a thought I quickly shut out…

For the rest, get Letters to Lovecraft from Stone Skin Press.


David Yale Ardanuy, a native Floridian and American history graduate student, is an avid hiker of forbidden and lofty places, a known trafficker of hidden wisdoms and a dream weaver. His story in this collection reflects both the nature of his scholarly endeavors and his love of weird and terrifying fiction.

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Teasers to Lovecraft: Orrin Grey

Letters to Lovecraft is our newest genre-blending anthology of original fiction, and to ring in the new year for our readers we’ll be posting excerpts from each of the stories. Today’s entry comes to us in the form of a a screenplay by gentleman skeleton Orrin Grey. One has to wonder, though, is this an adaptation of a story by horror maestro Gordon Phillips, or something more biographical?


It’s a scene straight from the pages of one of Gordon’s earlier, more lurid stories. The graveyard scene. Dana and Conner as the latter-day resurrection men, tramping across the swampy ground in the pissing rain with a battery-powered lantern and shovels that they picked up at Home Depot.
Dana’s hoodie is pulled up against the weather, her glasses spattered with drops that she can’t wipe away completely because her sleeve is too damp. She wears black leggings under her jeans for warmth, but you can only tell in the places where her jeans are worn through. The shock of purple in her otherwise brown hair is hidden by the darkness and the wet.

Conner is a good foot taller than Dana, wide at the shoulders. If he were a character in a movie, he’d play basketball or football, be wearing a letter jacket. Instead, he plays chess and video games, can’t stand most sports, though he’s been known to do Frisbee golf on occasion. He wears a leather jacket that repels the rain, and one of the shovels is over his shoulder, while Dana carries the lantern and the other shovel. His jacket hangs unevenly due to the weight of his father’s Colt .45 in his right pocket.

The lantern’s light is golden and seems very small in the graveyard, picking out just the edges of tombstones that seem to lurch out of the darkness in its uneven light, leaving everything else to shadow and rain.

DANA: Fuck Gordon for this, y’know?

From the tone of her voice, and from Conner’s non-reaction, you can tell it’s not the first time tonight that she’s said these words.

DANA: Fuck him for leaving this to us, and fuck him for convincing us to do it in the first place. And you know what? Fuck him twice for knowing that we would do it.

Conner doesn’t say anything, just trudges on ahead while Dana stops to wipe off her glasses again, this time taking them off and fishing under her hoodie for the edge of her relatively dry T-shirt.

DANA: He really is the Danny Ocean of this little trio, and no mistake.

CONNER: Frank Sinatra or George Clooney? Not that it matters much, I just call dibs on not being Sammy Davis Jr.

 
DANA: Not really any good parts for me, though I’d take Julia Roberts over Dana Phillips right about now.

CONNER: Maybe that’s what the next one of those movies oughta be about. Grave robbing.

DANA: It’d be a change.

Both of them stop, the banter dead on their lips. They’ve come to wherever they’re going, now. The lantern swings in Dana’s grip, the radius of light moving up and down, revealing the inscription on the stone before them, then hiding it again. In the light the stone is fresh, smooth and unblemished, and the name on it is clear: Gordon Phillips…

For the rest, get Letters to Lovecraft from Stone Skin Press.

 


Orrin Grey is a writer, editor, amateur film scholar and monster expert who was born on the night before Halloween. He’s the author of Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings and the coeditor of Fungi, an anthology of weird fungus-themed stories. You can find out more at orringrey.com.

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Teasers to Lovecraft: Chesya Burke

Letters to Lovecraft is our newest genre-blending anthology of original fiction, and to ring in the new year for our readers we’ll be posting excerpts from each of the stories. Today’s piece comes from the incomparable Chesya Burke, and takes us on a chilling journey the likes of which Lovecraft himself never dared imagine…


Edgar Kay Morrison died for the first time on August 13, 1900. He would die many nights after that, it would seem, always for the same reason. He was an enigma to some; to others, an evil devil sent to bewitch; and still yet, a prophet to most. However, on that night, he was none of those things. He was a seven-year-old boy who thought God had sent his chariots down for him, on the count of him having been such a good boy all his years.

At least that was what his momma whispered in his ears as he lay there wrenching in pain. The cramps started in his legs two days before, and had quickly taken over his body. That was when Momma sent Papa to get Doc Warner. He would know what to do, she said.

“Calm yo self, boy. God ain’t gonna set no pain on you, as you cain’t take.” Even as his momma spoke, another cramp seized his body. “Them chariots gonna be worth all this if they get you tonight,” she sounded so sure, but he saw tears rolling down her too-pale cheeks.

Edgar closed his eyes. He didn’t want to see her this way. He felt guilty. His sister had died just the year before, and his momma had stayed in bed for two weeks. She had cried so much that she said she had run out of tears. He didn’t want her to go through that again.

The pain — like a lead pipe snapping down on the small of his back — seized him again, and his body contorted; his arms flailing behind him, his head thrown back. He looked for all the world as if he were trying to roll himself up in a big ol’ ball, backward. His fingers were knotted in peculiar shapes, and he couldn’t get them to move.

“The devil,” his younger brother, David, whispered from somewhere behind his head.

“Shush up, boy. Now go on over there and get me something to put under his head. Go on now.”

David watched for another moment, and as Edgar screamed again, he jumped and ran into the other room. He didn’t come back for a full ten minutes, when he did, the only thing he brought with him was the old thick Bible, which was the only thing Momma had gotten from her father when he’d died twenty years before.

Momma took one look at him and shook her head. “Get… Give me that thing.” She took the Bible from David, and placed it under Edgar’s head. “This here will give you comfort in your time of trouble.” She told him, kissing his hand and touching the Good Book.

Outside, thick drops of rain hit the crude windowpane that Papa had cut himself just the year before, before Edgar’s sister had died. David went to the window, rubbed the condensation off, and stared out into the night. He was scared. Edgar couldn’t blame him, but what he couldn’t make out was if the boy really thought that he was the devil…

For the rest, get Letters to Lovecraft from Stone Skin Press.


Chesya Burke’s 2011 fiction collection, Let’s Play White, was featured in io9 and received praise from Samuel Delany and Nikki Giovanni. She is also recognized for her critical analysis of genre and race issues, such as her articles, “Race and The Walking Dead” and “Super Duper Sexual Spiritual Black Woman: The New and Improved Magical Negro,” published in Clarkesworld Magazine. Chesya is currently getting her MA in African American studies at Georgia State University and is a juror for the 2013 Shirley Jackson awards.

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Teasers to Lovecraft: Gemma Files

Letters to Lovecraft is our newest genre-blending anthology of original fiction, and to ring in the new year for our readers we’ll be posting excerpts from each of the stories. To usher you off into the weekend we’ve got something by Gemma Files, a midwinter excursion to “That Place.” With a master’s touch Files invokes that nigh-universal childhood ritual of inventing odd games to play, exclusive games that only a privileged few ever even learn of, and combines the richly esoteric workings of young imaginations with a chilling proposal. It’s just the thing for these long winter nights when you’re trapped inside the house with nothing to do…


So say two sisters finally come back home, after their parents die — twins. Their names are Holly and Heather. They have a younger brother, Edwin, whom they haven’t seen for some time. Estrangement’s grown up between them all, for no apparently good reason. It’s sad, but these things happen.

Holly and Heather attend university in Toronto. They also room together, because why not? They’ve always been like that. They can’t ever remember being apart.

Edwin never went to university. He finished high school, then trained as an auto mechanic, so he works all year round. He does most of his calls along the rural routes of northern Ontario, circling the area where they used to live, in Lake of the North District; his specialty is extending the life of trucks and four-wheelers, fighting planned obsolescence on behalf of people who can’t afford to trade up. Distance is an issue, up there. If you can’t drive, you can’t do much of anything.

One night Holly gets a call — it’s Edwin. Mom and Dad are gone, he says. Accident, out near Overdeere. Black ice pile-up. You need to come into town to hear the will read, then muck out the house with me.

The girls know this isn’t going to be easy, either way; it’s not like their parents were hoarders, as such, but they did tend not to ever get rid of anything. There’s a lot of stuff to appraise, most of it probably worthless, except on an emotional level. But it’s got to be done.

We’ll live there while we do it, Heather decides. Go up just after midterms, spend a few weeks. It won’t take longer than that. Not if we don’t let it.

“Town” is Chaste, up past Your Lips, almost to God’s Ear. Five traffic lights, a church, a school, a gas station strip mall, and a clinic that does double duty for Quarry Argent. Around it, there’s a network of small farms, plus acres of uncut woodlots. Cabin-style houses here and there, like the one they grew up in. It took thirty minutes to drive to the town limits, then twenty more to walk in, so days started early, up before dawn. Insects singing in summer, dark and cold and silent all winter.

Hope the fireplace still works, Heather says…

For the rest, get Letters to Lovecraft from Stone Skin Press.


Former film critic and teacher turned award-winning horror author Gemma Files is best known for her Hexslinger series (A Book of Tongues, A Rope of Thorns and A Tree of Bones, all from ChiZine Publications). She has also published two collections of short fiction (Kissing Carrion and The Worm in Every Heart, both from Wildside Press) and two chapbooks of poetry. Her most recent book is We Will All Go Down Together: A Novel in Stories About the Five-Family Coven (2014, CZP).

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Teasers to Lovecraft: Angela Slatter

Letters to Lovecraft is our newest genre-blending anthology of original fiction, and to ring in the new year for our readers we’ll be posting excerpts from each of the stories. Today’s piece is “Only the Dead and the Moonstruck” by Angela Slatter, a haunting meditation on grief, loss, and darker things still that stalk us when all the world ought to be asleep…


Becky heard the clink of the beer as he tried to slide it silently out of the fridge.

“Put it back,” she said, “or I’ll tell Mama.”

Micah swore almost under his breath, but loud enough for her to hear what he thought of his little sister. The bottle made an angry sound as he replaced it; then there was the soft thud of the juice bottle and the little fermented sigh as he uncapped it that told her it was almost out of date. She knew without looking that he was drinking straight from the carton; it was the kind of thing he did nowadays. She heard him slip back onto his chair and start hacking at the fried chicken on his plate. On her lap, Riddle, the fat ginger cat, stirred and sniffed, settled again, knowing that no food escaped the boy.

She tuned out the noises of her brother’s meal and watched her mother, as she always did, through the sunflower gauze curtain. Becky wasn’t sure if Suellan knew she was there, but she thought not; the woman was too focused on the sky. The stars were bright the night Aidan, Becky’s eldest brother, had disappeared, and Suellan, by her own admission, couldn’t help herself, not even two years down the track. Not even a new town, new house, new life, could stop her from going onto the narrow porch, a glass of red in hand, after she’d served up their dinner (always late, always around nine) and taken a few bites of her own, to stare upwards, judging the quality of starlight, hoping that one night they’d shine bright enough for her boy to find his way home.

And Becky understood. She understood a lot of things: that her mother hadn’t believed the police when they’d said Aidan had run away, nor when they changed their story to abducted. That Suellan sure as hell hadn’t believed them when they’d tried to tell her that the decomposed body lying on the steel tray at the Arkham morgue was all that was left of her son after he’d finally been found in the river. After all, she’d said to Becky’s father Buck, there was really only the right forearm with enough pale, puffy skin left to show the places where it seemed something had suckled and bit with all those tiny ring-a-ring-a-roses of sharp teeth, and that could have belonged to anyone.

It didn’t matter that the ragged clothes wrapped around the rotted form were identical to Aidan’s. Didn’t matter what they told her about DNA. Didn’t matter when they said Aidan wasn’t the first Essex County boy to whom this had happened. Didn’t matter that she’d eventually given in to Buck’s pleas that they move, start again. Becky remembered her father asking Didn’t the other kids deserve a future that wasn’t overshadowed by their brother’s passing? but she couldn’t recall her mother answering.

Didn’t matter, Suellan told Becky and Micah more than once, coz one day their big brother was coming back, and he’d know where to find them because of the starlight, because it would lead him home. To her…

For the rest, get Letters to Lovecraft from Stone Skin Press.


Angela Slatter writes dark fantasy and horror. She is the author of the Aurealis Award–winning The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales, the WFA-shortlisted Sourdough and Other Stories and the new collection / mosaic novel (with Lisa L. Hannett) Midnight and Moonshine. Her work has appeared in such writerly venues as The Mammoth Book of New Horror 22, Australian and US Best Of anthologies, Fantasy Magazine, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Dreaming Again and Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded. She was awarded one of the inaugural Queensland Writers Fellowships in 2013. She has a British Fantasy Award for “The Coffin-Maker’s Daughter” (from A Book of Horrors, Stephen Jones, ed.), a PhD in creative writing, and blogs at www.angelaslatter.com.

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