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Posts Tagged ‘Horror’

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Co-owners of ChiZine Sandra Kasturi and Brett Savory have stepped down as publisher and managing editor of ChiZine. The new interim publisher is Christie Harkin.  From what I can tell her primary function will be to attempt to pay as much money that is due where it is due, to the best of her ability to sort that out. Where ChiZine will go from here is yet to be seen.

 

Chizine is (was) a Canadian press (quote direct from their about page):

“World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Bram Stoker Award-winning ChiZine Publications publishes the same kind of weird, subtle, surreal, disturbing horror, science fiction, and fantasy that ChiZine.com (the webzine) had become known for since 1997, only in longer form—novels, novellas, and short story collections.”

 

I have read varying views on what actually happened to ChiZine. Not being on the inside of this controversy, I am refraining from making assumptions. (I have had my own experience with failed small presses). Google at the moment is filled with a lot of angry posts from ChiZine contributors, attempts by the owners of the publication to explain, as well as both those in support of and against them. I will leave that to you to make your own judgements.

 

The literary world is rife with publications that fail for varying reasons. It’s a tough and fickle business and, reasons for ChiZine’s downfall aside, High Fever Books is only one of those walking away from doing business with ChiZine.

 

The controversy tearing ChiZine apart, and you can easily find and read for yourself the many views on its source causes, boils down to contributors and others (editors, cover designers, etc) who are not only unhappy, but are absolutely furious, with not so recent developments involving the publication’s communications and inability to pay them, among other claims.

 

Whether someone will be able to pick up the pieces and successfully rebirth ChiZine is open to speculation. As some have said, it may be better they go quietly to sleep while another publication takes up the reigns of weird, subtle, surreal, and disturbing story publication in Canada. We certainly could use more Canadian markets for these stories.

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via Where the Winter Wind Howls by L.V. Gaudet

Where the Winter Wind Howls

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Those Eyes

by L.V. Gaudet

 

 

As I stand in the damp shadows of the night looking through the muted sheen of drizzle in the night lights, a darker shadow comes into view.

It moves as if apart from the world around it.  Coming slowly towards me.  It cannot be more than four feet high.

I turn and scurry, ducking to hide behind a large tree spreading its darkly leafed limbs in the front yard of a house behind me on the street.  Peeking out, I look up the rain slick street.

The clash of cool rain against the warm night air thickens into a fog, filling the air with its ghostly aura.

The light of the street lamps still glow sallow and mute despite the rain misting them and the fog folding them into its thickening embrace.

The shadow moves, untouched by the dim light, the rain, and the fog.

I am filled with the urge to duck deeper into the tree, to become one with it, hiding like the little grey squirrel who I know lives in this very tree.

Fear breathes from my mouth and I imagine I can feel the little squirrel trembling in fear inside its tree home, holding its breath and listening.

I look again and the shadow is closer now.  It has split into two somehow.  Identical.  Almost.

The urge to laugh at how stupid I must look sits heavily in my chest.  I have no idea why I am afraid.

Swallowing the sick bile of fear in my throat, I force myself to move, darting for the darkened house behind me.

Yanking at the door is useless.  The door is locked.

Ringing the bell brings no solace with the impotent pushing of that little button on the wall next to the door.  No one is there to let me in.

Looking around quickly, I remember there is a shed behind the house.

The shadow twins are still there, closer now, in the middle of the road where the street lights reveal them to be nothing more than two children, a boy and girl.

A laugh bubbles up my throat, filled with the tension of unease.  I feel foolish.  They are just a couple of kids.  The smile that cracks my face is a little sickly looking.

I move to step towards them.  I should greet them and ask what they are doing out here in the middle of the night, in the rain.  Are they lost?

They are staring at me.  I know this by the way their bodies look in the dark and the rain, the dim light glittering with a fiendish wet sparkle that touches everything but them.  They are facing me, staring at me, although I cannot see their faces, their eyes.

As we face off in the rain glistening in the street lamps dark of night, the warm air loses its clash against the chill air brought by the rain, and the fog thickens.

The other night shadows recede, but somehow the two children seem to be shadow and real at once.  An aura of shadow that is a part of them.  They are untouched, somehow, by the street lights.

Fear oozes through me, slithering dark and oily.

They move towards me in perfect unison, taking a slow step, unhurried.  They have all the time in creation of the planets and the universe.

I don’t know when my feet moved.  I only know that somehow, inexplicably, my feet are moving beneath me.  Running.

It feels like I cannot take my eyes off those children.  I feel bad that I am not offering to help them.  They should not be out here.  Yet, I know I cannot be looking at them because the house passes to my right in a fear-fogged blur.  The driveway moves beneath the slap of my feet. The rain soaked grass of the back yard dampens the bottoms of my pants legs.  I see the shed coming at me, the hand that moves as if it is not a part of me reaching, grasping, and pulling the door open.

The darkness of the shed’s interior with its lawnmower squatting like some strange alien bug, the rakes and shovels, and the spindly spokes of a bicycle rearing suddenly before my eyes, hanging from the roof or the wall, I am not sure which.

My breath is panting raggedly out of my mouth and I am certain I can smell my own stink of fear sweat.

The two kids are outside of the shed as I pull the door closed, jamming a gardening utensil into the handles on the inside to lock the doors closed, even as my displaced thoughts wonder why those handles are even there on the inside of a small shed.

Utter blackness fills the shed with the closing of those doors.

I can feel them out there, staring at me.

The last image of them is burned into my eyes, my mind.  Their faces, so strangely devoid of emotion, of life, of whatever it is that magically makes the living feel animated.

Their eyes, twin orbs of blackness staring out of twin pale moon faces.  Expressionless.  Lifeless.

Soulless.

Their eyes are all black.  The pupil, the iris, the sclera, the part that is supposed to be white.

Their voices come through the rough wood door, close on the other side; hollow, surreal and weirdly dreamlike.  As if they are speaking to me through some strange mutant sound muffling and distorting mist from far away.

“Please, let us in.  We only want to come in.”

“Let us in out of the rain.”

“It is dark out here.  Please let us in.”

Everything that is human and decent in me tells me that I should open that door.

The slithering dark oily fear filling me holds me prisoner.  I cannot move.  I cannot scream.

I somehow manage to look down and wonder at my bare feet.  The bottoms of my now wet pajama pants.  I am dressed for bed?  Did I go to bed?  I don’t remember.

How did I get outside?  I don’t remember.

I can only see those black eyes.  Strange and lifeless, staring at me without expression.

The all black eyes.  Football shaped marbles of black that do not, cannot, glisten in the light the way eyes do.  Light cannot touch them any more than it can touch the strange children or the shadows that became them.

They are the absence of light.  Of life?

I want to scream.

I can only see the eyes.

 

 

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20115

 

The realtor enters first, staring in fascination at the outdated furniture and décor.  The air feels heavy with dust and it tickles the back of his throat.

Awkwardly, he remembers and steps aside to let the other man in.

The buyer steps inside after the realtor and, like him, stops to take it all in.  He scans the room, absorbing the old furniture, the layer of dust covering everything like a shroud. The dust in the air is heavy and gives his throat a dry tickle that makes him want to cough.

With a distracted nod to the realtor, he steps further into the house, feeling a momentary pang of regret for not taking his shoes off. “You are supposed to take your shoes off when you enter someone’s home,” he thinks.  He looks around taking it all in.

“It’s eerie how the house feels like the family just left it moments ago, like they are about to come back at any time.  The house looks lived in, except for the thirty years of dust coating everything and the vague feeling of abandonment.”

The mostly green cover of a comic book left laying open on the floor catches his eye.  He picks up the comic book and looks at it, trying not to disturb too much of the dust clinging to it.  It’s unavoidable, his fingers rub smudges in the dust coating the old comic book.  The Thing, an orange blocky comic book creation made of stone, part monster and all hero.  On the cover, The Thing appears to be battling a many-armed green wall, the green arms surrounding him in a barrage of punching fists.  Marvel Comics, The Thing issue #21 dated March 1985.  The price on it is sixty cents.

The top front corner is curled from a boy’s rough handling.

He puts it down with a frown, wondering if it’s worth anything on the collectors’ market.  He can’t take it, though.  It belongs to the municipality, along with the property and its contents.  At least until after the auction.  He hopes the realtor didn’t notice it.

“How often do realtors scoop up gems like this without anyone ever knowing?” he wonders.

Against the wall on a stand, a tube T.V. with its faux wood exterior box, two front dials, and bent rabbit ears poking up from the top at the back, sits darkly silent, a haze of dust coating every surface.

He walks through the house, past a pair of socks discarded on the floor, and into the kitchen.

“Did you say they still lived here after the boys vanished?” he called to the realtor in the other room.

The realtor is studying the spines of books in a bookcase on one wall.  It’s made of the old particleboard that expands and crumbles when it absorbs moisture, which it inevitably does over time.  The shelves have some warping and bubbling, crumbled on some edges.

“Yes, I don’t know how long.  They lived here while the search for the boys was going, and for some time after the search was given up.”

“And the husband moved out, leaving the mother alone?”

“Yeah.”

“How long?”

“I don’t know. Months? Years? They locked the place when they took her away. Like I said, we’re the first to set foot in the house since they institutionalized her.”

He leaves the bookshelf and starts for the kitchen.

In the kitchen, the buyer walks around, taking in the two tea towels carefully hung on the oven door handle, yellowed and rotting with age.  The teakettle on the stovetop. On the countertop, a measuring cup sits next to a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon. Two bags he guesses are flour and sugar bags sit next them. The bags are faded and stained with age, the paper brittle with age, and even the larger print words hard to read.

“Looks like someone was going to make a cake.”

He turns away, circling the table, studying the place settings set with care.

An old tan rotary dial phone hangs on the wall not far from the kitchen table, where the person on the phone can sit down at the table while they talk, the coiled cord stretched from them to the phone on the wall.

The realtor walks in and looks around, his footprints in the dust coating the kitchen floor joining those following the buyer’s trail across the room.  “Weird, the table is set for four.”

“For her family.” It is said with a dull gravity that makes the realtor turn and stare at him.

He breaks the awkward moment.

“I’ll show you the bedrooms.  There’s three bedrooms, I think.”

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11985

 

The boys burst into the house, hurriedly kicking off their boots at the back door before going any further.  Everything looks exactly like it did when they went out to play.

It’s 1985 and the furniture and décor are a clash of pieces mostly from the sixties and seventies, some bought new, some second hand, and some are hand-me-downs.  Nothing has been upgraded in the past ten years, a testament of thoughtful care and financial mediocrity.  The worn couch and dented coffee table, victims of having two rambunctious growing boys in the house, are overdue to be replaced.  A comic book lays discarded on the floor, open as if it is trying to fly away, The Thing is caught forever in an epic battle against a green monster that looks like a rough tree bark wall with many arms surrounding The Thing with flailing punching fists.  The television, an ancient tube set, sits dark and quiet on its stand.  A pair of discarded boy’s socks are tossed carelessly on the floor, and the latest edition of TV Guide sits on the coffee table.

“Mom!” Jesse looks around.

The house is dead silent except for their own breathing.

“Mom?”

Kevin stands there, looking around.

The house is exactly as they left it before they went outside to play.  How long has that been?  An hour?

But not quite.

Everything seems a little muted.  Off.

And more dusty than he remembers.

Jesse runs into the kitchen.  After a pause of a few heartbeats, Kevin follows.

“Mom?” Jesse pauses just inside the doorway, looking expectantly for their mother.

The teakettle still sits on the stovetop, two tea towels hang from the oven door handle where they were hung to dry after washing dishes in the sink, and the table is set for dinner with places for four.

Flour and sugar bags sit on the countertop next to a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon and measuring cup, pulled out in preparation of baking a cake.

Their mother is not there.

They run through the house calling, “Mom! Mom! Mom!”  They end their search back in the living room, out of breath.

“She’s not here.”

“Where could she be?”

“Next door, maybe?”

“Let’s go see.”

They pull their boots back on and rush out the door into the backyard, trained not to use the front door because that would somehow make more cleaning work for their mother, and around the side of the house to the front.

They stop, staring around wide-eyed, and turn to stare at each other, their faces full of fear and confusion.

They are standing in the woods next to that old stump.

“What the hell?”

“Don’t cuss,” Jesse says automatically.  There is hell to pay if their mom ever hears them use bad language.  Hell is one of many forbidden words.

Kevin turns to him, appalled.

“Seriously?  You’re worried about me cussing? We are back in the woods! How?  This is impossible!”

He stops.

“Jesse.”

“What?” Jesse is sulking now.

“The grass.”

“What about it?”

“Wasn’t there grass in the yard?”

“Yeah, so?  There’s always been grass in the yard.”

Kevin narrows his eyes, wondering if Jesse is just being dumb or is messing with him.

“It’s early spring.  Look around.  There’s still snow everywhere.”

“Yeah, so?” Jesse isn’t getting it.

Kevin’s shoulders sag with the futility of it.  Do I even bother? He sighs.

“Jesse, do you remember what the yard looked like? Just now, when we went back to the house.”

“Yeah, your bike was laying on the grass. I almost tripped on it.”

“Where was the snow?”

They both just stare at each other.

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20115

 

The key jams in the lock, not wanting to go in.

The realtor looks at him nervously and smiles.

“It’ll go in.  The key works.”  His grimace gives face to the lie.  He isn’t so sure it will work.

He fiddles and struggles with the key for too long before the rusting lock mechanism finally unwillingly gives and allows them access.

His smile is almost sickly with relief.

He turns to the prospective buyer, hoping yet again that this is not a big waste of his time.  His commission is going to depend on how much the house actually sells for.  It’s not the usual commission deal.  He is getting more than the average commission percentage, an unusual agreement made with the municipal office that wants only to unload the property and get it off their books, doubtful anyone will bother to bid on it.

This guy is the only person who has shown an interest.  He could bid a dollar, the lowest bid allowed, and walk away with the property for nothing, less than the price of a cup of coffee.

He tries the door, hoping it opens easily.  A warped door can turn off a buyer before they see anything else.

The door sticks in the frame and, after he puts some weight into it, gives with the dull sound of two pieces of swollen wood pressed against each other giving up the fight to hold together.

They enter the house and step back thirty years in time.

 

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The Woods-3.jpg“What is that?” Jesse looks around, alarmed.

Kevin is busy inspecting the object in his hand.  It is rounded with the mud and rotting leaves stuck to it.  He can’t tell what it is.

“Probably a squirrel.”

“I don’t think so.”  Jesse can’t stop looking around.  He feels off.  Something is wrong.

“Kevin,” he hesitates.

“What?”

“It doesn’t look right.”

“What doesn’t look right?”

“Everything.  It’s… off.  The color is off.”

Kevin looks at him.  “You are a goof.”

Jesse’s wide frightened eyes make him pause.  He looks around them.  Jesse is right.  His heart beats faster and his chest feels tight.  Everything looks a little off.  The color.  The light.  But it’s more than that.  Something he doesn’t know how to describe.  It’s just … off.

Slowly, he bends down and puts the unknown object back down, wanting to free his hands.

He stands up and looks around again.

“Now he’s got my mind playing tricks,” he thinks.  There is nothing strange at all about anything.  Everything looks exactly like it should.  Exactly like before.

“It’s nothing,” Kevin says. “You really are a goof.  I don’t know what you’re talking about.  Everything’s normal to me.”

Jesse looks like he’s ready to bolt.

“Go run home scaredie-pants,” Kevin sneers.  He turns his attention back to the strange item at the base of the stump.

Jesse backs away, moving back towards their yard.

Kevin bends over and picks it up.  He stands up and looks around.  He feels off.

Jesse is moving away and Kevin doesn’t want to admit he’s afraid to be alone in the woods.  He pockets his treasure and chases after Jesse.

They reach the yard and stop.  They both look around.

It all looks a bit … odd.

The color is off just a bit.  It all feels a bit odd.  Out of sync maybe.

The house is not large, a lower middle-income home, all but the windowsills and doors was repainted last year.  The paint of the windowsills is cracking and starting to peel.  A job their father has not yet gotten to.

The lawn, mowed only three days prior, is only just starting to show the sprout of faster growing grass blades reaching over the others, although the dandelions have already popped their heads up, flashing their yellow flowers to the sky like round smiles.  A bicycle lays discarded on the lawn and a swing set stands on one side of the yard waiting to be used.

It all seems a bit dulled, muted, a bit off color.  Like a television set that someone has buggered with the color settings on.

Jesse broke first, running for the house.

He falters, not watching and almost tripping on the bike laying discarded on the grass. Recovering, he keeps going.

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