Tag Archives: Horror

Monster Writing Contest Runner Up : Shona Kinsella

At the Water’s Edge

by Shona Kinsella

Anna swore as she stumbled over a tree root. Her ankle throbbed; she added it to her growing list of aches and pains. These stupid boots had rubbed her feet raw, the muscles of her legs ached, her shoulders burned from the weight of her backpack and her head was pounding. Why had she ever thought it was a good idea to come on this hike? She wasn’t an outdoorsy person. Not like Hayley. 

            Anna rolled her shoulders and tried not to think about the tall, blonde woman who had joined Jonathon’s walking group.

            ‘I hope she’s wandering around alone, too,’ Anna muttered to herself.

            It was all because she had gone to the pub with them last Friday. She had seen the hungry way that Hayley looked at Jonathon, and how he had leaned towards her when he was speaking. When Anna had taken his hand, he seemed surprised to be reminded that she was there. So, of course, when they started discussing this hike, she had to say she would come along.

            The worst part was that Jonathon had laughed; implied that she wouldn’t be able to go the distance. Of course, he was right. 

            Half an hour into the hike, she knew it had been a mistake. She had bought brand-new hiking boots and hadn’t had time to break them in properly. She wasn’t used to carrying all the equipment she needed and had no idea how to read a compass or a map. She ended up feeling like an idiot. A frumpy idiot, in her baggy combat trousers and old jumper, while Hayley swanned about in a vest top and jodhpurs, showing off her long, slim legs. Seriously, who even wore jodhpurs?

            The group was supposed to be going about half-way up the hill – which Jonathon insisted was only a small one, but it looked enormous to her – and then looping around it and back down the other side to the loch. They had all strung out, as people teamed up with others at their own pace. Of course,Hayley, had attached herself to Jonathon and Anna, sighing or rolling her eyes every time Anna had to stop for a rest or to adjust her backpack.

            They had started looping around when the fog came in. It was so sudden; Anna had never seen anything like it. She had bent down to tie her shoe lace and when she looked back up she couldn’t see Jonathon or Hayley. She had called out to them but the fog muffled her words, making them sound quiet even to her own ears.

            Anna started off in the direction she thought they had been going. She figured Jonathon and Hayley must be just ahead and she would catch up with them within minutes but that had been over an hour ago. Of course, she couldn’t get a signal on her phone since they were at the backend of nowhere and only crazy people came here. She had no choice but to keep walking and hope she ran into them. 

            Someday we’ll look back on this and laugh.

            Just now she was struggling not to cry. She leaned against a tree and sank to her knees to rest her feet for a moment. From this changed vantage point, she noticed a glimmer between the trees. Water. The loch!

            She climbed to her feet again and limped on, careful to step over and around the roots that seemed to grasp for her feet. If she managed to keep the water in sight, she should be able to make her way down to the loch. The rest of the walking group should be there – or, if not, they should show up sooner or later.

            She stepped out of the trees and before her lay a gentle, grassy slope down to the water’s edge. The fog was burning off and Anna could feel a hint of warmth from the hidden sun. 

            Small for a loch, she thought, looking around. She could see around the shore; there was no sign of anyone. Anna frowned. She had been at the back of the group. How could she possibly have gotten here first? Where were the others? Could they have gone back without her?

Panic started to rise in her chest and she could feel her heart rate speeding up. This was ridiculous. Jonathon wouldn’t have gone without her. Whether he was making eyes at Hayley or not, he was the most responsible person she’d ever known. He would not go home until the whole group was accounted for.

Maybe they went back looking for you and you passed them in the woods?

No. He would have insisted that someone stay by the loch in case she came this way. There was definitely no-one else around, as far as she could see; but the far end of the loch was fuzzy from here. It was possible that some of those shapes she thought were bushes could be people.

The water caught Anna’s eye and she looked longingly at it, imagining the coolness against her tortured feet. Before she could stop herself, she had her feet out of the boots. She carefully peeled her socks away from the blisters that had burst, blood causing the wool to stick to her. She rolled up her trouser-legs and limped down to the water. She dipped a toe in and squealed at the cold but then stepped forward so the water came up to her ankles. Her blisters stung but the relief to the soles of her feet made it worthwhile.

Movement caught her eye, out towards the middle of the loch. She stood and watched for a few seconds but saw nothing. Probably a fish jumping for its dinner; still a shiver ran down her spine. It’s not like this place in big enough to have a Nessie, what are you worried about?

She turned back towards the far end of the loch and stopped short, letting out a small scream. Right in front of her, standing in the shallow water, was a horse. The most beautiful horse she had ever seen. Dappled grey, it’s colouring resembled the fractured sunlight on the surface of the water. It was wearing a bridle and reins but no saddle. Anna looked around for its rider but could still see no-one. Perhaps they had been separated in the fog like her and Jonathon.

The horse nuzzled her and Anna stroked its nose, looking longingly at its back. It had been a long time since she had ridden but it would be so much easier than walking back. Still, what would the horse’s owner say? More practically, could she even get on without a saddle and stirrups?

As if it could read her mind, the horse knelt, bringing its back to the perfect height for her to climb up. Anna chewed her lip and looked around. She could always ride around the loch and check for other people. She climbed onto the horse’s back and took hold of the reins.

‘No!’

Anna spun in her seat, looking for the source of the scream. The noise had frightened the horse, causing it to head deeper into the loch. Anna pulled on the reins to turn it back to shore but it wouldn’t obey.

‘You have to get off!’ It was Hayley – Anna could see her now, running out of the treeline further along from where Anna had emerged. 

‘I’m only going to ride around the loch,’ Anna called back. ‘You’re scaring him, you have to stop shouting.’

‘Get off!’

Anna hauled at the reins. Water rose up the creature’s flank, lapping against her knee. She looked down when something brushed against her leg and screamed. A body floated past, just below the surface. It was one of the guys from the hiking group. Anna tried to slide off the horse but found herself stuck.

‘It’s not a horse, it’s a kelpie!’ Hayley screamed. ‘You have to get off!’

‘I can’t!’ Anna called back, the water coming over the horse’s back to cover her thighs. ‘I’m stuck.’

‘The bridle! Pull the bridle off!’ Hayley was running into the water now.

Anna scrabbled at the bridle, her shaking fingers unable to find purchase. Another body floated past and Anna began to whimper as she managed to get her fingers under the strap of the bridle. In one, swift motion she pulled the bridle over the horse’s head.

Anna splashed into the water, the horse that been holding her gone, the bridle still in her hand. She went under and thrashed around in panic until Hayley grabbed her and pulled her to the surface, helping her back to shore.

‘Jonathon?’ Anna asked.

‘He went back looking for you. I stayed in case you found your way here. The kelpie got the others. We saw it.’

‘I’m never leaving the city again,’ Anna vowed.

Out Now: Respectable Horror

Respectable Horror front cover

Get your hands on this beauty! Respectable Horror is out in the wilds and ready to be lured to your home. Miss Poppy (our cover model designed by S. L. Johnson) will lead the way to a spectral crew of authors who are just dying to give you spine-tingling chills. This new collection offers names both familiar and new, writers who believe that it’s possible to terrify without more than a few drops of blood. The wind in the trees, the creak in the floor board, an innocent knock on the door: they’ll all take on a more sinister cast as you turn the pages of this book.

Introduction by K. A. Laity
The Estate of Edward Moorehouse by Ian Burdon
The Feet on the Roof by Anjana Basu
Spooky Girl by Maura McHugh
Recovery by H. V. Chao
The Holy Hour by C. A. Yates
Malefactor by Alan C. Moore
A Splash of Crimson by Catherine Lundoff
In These Rooms by Jonathan Oliver
A Framework by Richard Farren Barber
Running a Few Errands by Su Haddrell
Miss Metcalfe by Ivan Kershner
The Little Beast by Octavia Cade
The Well Wisher by Matthew Pegg
Where Daemons Don’t Tread by Suzanne J. Willis
Full Tote Gods by D. C. White
Those Who Can’t by Rosalind Mosis
The Astartic Arcanum by Carol Borden

Description:

Do serial killers, glistening viscera, oceans of gore and sadistic twists make you yawn behind a polite hand? Are you looking for something a little more interesting than a body count? These are tales that astonish and horrify, bring shivers and leave you breathless. You may be too terrified to find out what happens next – but you won’t be able to resist turning the page. We’ll make you keep the lights on. For a very long time.

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Respectable Horror: C. A. Yates

Respectable Horror front cover
The author of ‘The Holy Hour’ may perhaps be better known for tales of another type:

With regard to my story ‘The Holy Hour’ soon to be presented to you under the auspices of Respectable Horror:

Respectable, you say? Well now, it’s a good job you came to me, my dears, for it is well known about these parts that I am the very embodiment of the well-turned heel of etiquette, the nine-time retriever of Lady Windermere’s Fanny, the epitome of Respectability. Its goddamned quintessence, I say. Yes, indeed, I am all about the corsetry and manners, my sweetest hearts, the decadently clad dandy wilt throw no shade on me. My writings, for the most part, are not that of some rabidly cussing blood-crazed termagant, it’s not all effing and bloody jeffing, with dismembered limbs akimbo and boiling pans of severed heads on the stove – I mean, I once wrote a story about a Sub-Aquatic Opera Company, for goodness’ sake. That’s a positively cultural orgasm of respectability right there, a full on lah-di-dah rigour of protocol and decorum.

Don’t listen to today’s rabble, my loves! Theirs is the voice of indignity and ignorance.

Free yourself from the restraints of the heathenism of modern hedonism and run with me into an old-fashioned gothic phantasmagoria that will chill your spine and … well, actually, I feel quite foolish now, because there aren’t any creaking old houses, or sinister mazes, or spinster phantoms plaguing ruthless rakes in the night. No tastefully bosom-heaving heroines or gargantuous-foreheaded uncles with their eye on their innocent ward’s prize, no creatures that will cause the blood to run slow in your veins, and there are most certainly no books that will twist you into folly itself. There’s a wife; she’s alone and she’s sad. She might be me one day. I hope not, but I fear it.

Wait! There’s a church, they are très respectable, aren’t they? Well, it might be a church, or it might not now I come to think about it, I’m not a believer myself, at least I don’t think I am… there’s definitely a dog. Everyone likes dogs, all respectable households have one.

And no one – I repeat NO ONE – gets eaten.

Respectable? Fucking A.

Oh.

C.A. Yates.

P.S. Blame The Cure. I do.

Respectable Horror: Anjana Basu

There was a white mansion hidden behind wrought iron gates across the road from the school. I knew it was white because the daughters came to school to be chivvied by the nuns through their classes and their brother studied at Xavier’s  several streets away. Occasionally I met their stately mother at my mother’s tea parties and greeted her with a demure, “Hello Aunty” before vanishing into my room.

After school we all went our different ways, so I forgot all about the daughters, though I would continue to meet their mother at various social gatherings, turning greyer and statelier with each passing year.

Then one year I heard a whisper that a body had been found on the roof of the mansion. Well, a body that had been charred to the point of recognition except for a pair of feet. One of the daughters it was said had crept upstairs during the afternoon siesta and killed herself. The sleeping house had not heard a thing and the body was not found until the police were called in.

The possibility of murder was frequently hinted at over martinis for a while – mother and son had apparently colluded to do away with the inconvenient girl who was refusing to let them sell the house. Then the whole story died down with no arrests made.

From there came my story of the ghostly footprints.

 Anjana Basu has to date published 7 novels and 2 books of poetry. The has BBC broadcast one of her short stories. Her byline has appeared in Vogue India and Conde Nast Traveller. 

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Respectable Horror Cover Reveal

Well what more do we need to say? Coming very soon a wonderful collection of creepy tales to enjoy with the last tendrils of winter mist. 

Respectable Horror: Matthew Pegg

MR James Ghost StoriesHaunted Objects.

Sometimes it can be quite hard to put your finger on exactly where a story came from or what inspired it, because so much of writing happens in the subconscious. I usually start out with a snippet of a plot, or a character or an idea, but once I start writing other things accrue and attach themselves to it; events occur that I wasn’t expecting, characters pop up and demand to take part, the story takes on a life of its own.

But I can put my finger on some of the influences on The Well Wisher.

I’ve always liked classic horror and ghost stories, ever since reading my grandparent’s copy of A Century of Thrillers: From Poe to Arlen, which sat on their small and only bookshelf, along with The Passionate Witch by Thorne Smith. (I’ve still got the book and the bookshelf.) A Century of Thrillers is a chunky volume, published by The Daily Express newspaper in the 1930s. Its a great collection of classic tales and well worth tracking down.

I wanted to write a story in that vein and thought it would be interesting to write about a haunted object. M.R. James’s The Mezzotint, A Candle in Her Room, (a terrifying children’s book by Ruth M. Arthur,) and Stephen King’s Christine all tackle this concept in quite different ways.

James’s haunted engraving replays a horrific incident from the past but doesn’t offer any real threat to its observers. You could argue that the true horror of the tale lies in the fact that the protagonist is powerless to influence the events he sees slowly unfolding in the picture.

In A Candle in Her Room the wooden doll Dido exerts a malign influence over three generations of the same family. It is the way that possession of the doll changes its owner that is frightening.

The Witch DollChristine, the 1950s Plymouth Fury, is the most concrete haunted object of the three, quite capable of killing you on its own. But like Dido, possession of Christine changes its owner. I like the way King turns the classic 1950s car, a symbol of the American Dream, into something evil. I also like the detail, missing from the film, that Christine’s milometer runs backwards: the more you drive it the newer the car gets. When thugs trash the car, owner Arnie pushes it round the block all night, putting his back out in the process, until the car repairs itself. There’s something satisfying about the physicality of that action.

I had a feeling that if you’re going to write about a haunted object then it should be a functional object, and if its normal function can become threatening in some way then that seemed to me to be satisfyingly neat. Of the three examples of haunted objects above, I think only in Christine do you get a sense of what has caused an inanimate object to turn nasty: Christine has been created by the human hatred of its previous owner, rather than any supernatural force. So its progenitors are Frankenstein and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde rather than Dracula: we create the monster and we become the monster, rather than the monster being a threat from elsewhere.

I like structure in stories. I find it satisfying when things have some kind of internal logic. So I wanted to know why my haunted object behaved the way it did. And that ‘why’ had to also be something to do with it’s function. That was what I was trying to achieve and I hope it works.

I’m being a bit coy about revealing too much about The Well Wisher because I hope you’ll read it and I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Miss Andrews, the central character, evolved all on her own to become a troubled, clever, kind, brave, flawed person. And I can’t claim to have planned any of that, it just happened. I do know that one influence on her was Jane Eyre. I’d recently seen a theatre version of the story and it was rattling round in my brain, especially Jane’s orphan status and poverty, which define the choices she can make in life.

For an unmarried Victorian woman, educated but not wealthy, being a governess was one of the few options available. Charlotte and Anne Bronte did this in real life and that experience is reflected in both Jane Eyre and Anne’s first novel Agnes Grey.

I felt that the Victorian governess was in a rather uneasy position, not quite one of the servants, but not truly a member of the family either. I liked that sense of isolation, unease and insecurity.

So Miss Andrews became a governess, sometimes too forthright for her own good but worried about her future, and much braver than me. I would like to know what happens to her next.

But as I said at the start, a lot of any story emerges from the subconscious. So when I was reading the proof copy of Respectable Horror, I was struck by how much of The Well Wisher seemed quite unfamiliar. “Where did that come from,” I wondered, “And that?”

I can’t even claim credit for the double meaning in the title….
 
Matthew Pegg is a writer based in Leicestershire in the UK. Most of his writing has been for theatre and includes work for puppet companies, youth theatres, community plays and a script designed to be performed during a medieval banquet. His most recent theatre work was Escaping Alice, a love story with chains and handcuffs, for York Theatre Royal. He’s also completed a community radio play based on the life of Wordsworth and has been commissioned to create a puppet play to tour to care homes for people suffering from dementia. In 2012 he completed an MA in Creative Writing, and since then he has been working on a novel, and placing short fiction with a variety of publishers. Website: http://www.mpegg.co.uk 

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Respectable Horror: Ian Burdon

We’ve got a scintillating new collection of stories coming: Respectable Horror. As you might guess from the title it’s a return to creepy spooky unsettling tales — think Shirley Jackson and M.R. James. Here’s one of our writers telling you about how he came to write his story:

Polin seasideIan Burdon

I used to write.

I used to start things, then abandon them because they were crap. That isn’t false modesty, I still have some of them on floppy disk, or even typewritten with copious Tippex corrections (yes kids, that’s how old I am). I keep meaning to destroy them, but somehow can’t; so sometimes I take them out and read them, and they’re still crap.

Eventually I stopped writing fiction; not for any real reason, just the usual job and family things that took up my time. And I wrote stuff for work, which sublimated the urge to make things up (though I was a civil servant, so…).

I even got published.

Then one day my wife and I were on a remote single-track road in the Highlands, and, as we rounded a blind corner, a spume of characters and ideas blew in through the open car window and into my notebook. I started plotting a novel, somewhat inspired by my first degree (Theology) and Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, but set in Caithness, with characters who might or might not exist, depending on your point of view. I knew two things straight away: I wanted to write that story, and I didn’t have the skills to do it. So I wrote lots of practice pieces to try and develop, sharing my efforts with friends in similar circumstances.

Eventually, after lots of words, and lots of deletions, I produced a couple of scenes that I knew were qualitatively better than previous efforts, and promptly went on holiday.

This time, we were walking on a remote Sutherland beach [photo above!] where I was reminded of Jonathan Miller’s classic 1968 adaptation of Oh, Whistle, And I’ll Come to You, My Lad. Gosh, I thought, we’re walking through the middle of an MR James story. Out came the notebook. Not long after, the first draft of “The Estate of Edward Moorehouse” was complete.

I didn’t write it with publication in mind, and I didn’t expect to write anything in the horror genre, respectable or not; it’s not what I normally read. Authors whom I’d like to emulate in one way or another include Muriel Spark, Edna O’Brien, Dorothy Dunnett, George MacKay Brown, M John Harrison and Christopher Priest.

Since Edward Moorehouse, I’ve completed several stand-alone stories and a 105K word collection of linked short stories—that began when I found myself inadvertently writing a vampire story and knew I didn’t want to write any such thing. I’m currently working on a sequel to that. And I still have that other novel to write, and the one about sex workers in post-war Edinburgh, and by the way did I tell you about the monk who talked to lizards, and the boy who rode trains with his coyote, and…

 

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Asian Monsters : Table of Contents

Monsters are coming! Margret Helgadottir is back with another fantastic line up as she returns monsters to the dark. African Monsters is presently on the short list for the British Fantasy Society award for best Anthology.

Asian monsters is the third volume in a world tour exploring horror continent by continent, beginning in Europe. Release of the books is accompanied by a series of blog posts explaining more about the origins of some of the monsters. See more about the series and the monsters here.  

Cover coming soon!

***

We are pleased to announce that Asian Monsters is due out this November. Asian Monsters will be the third in the Fox Spirit Books of Monsters series that started with European Monsters and continued with British Fantasy Awards shortlisted African Monsters.

In this collection we explore the old myths and monsters of the continent of Asia in short stories and art.

Edited by Margret Helgadottir and with cover art by Daniele Serra we are pleased to reveal the table of contents for Asian Monsters:

Xia Jia: ‘A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight’ (translated by Ken Liu)
Ken Liu: ‘Good Hunting’
Eve Shi: ‘Blood Like Water’
Usman T. Malik: ‘Blood Women’
Aliette le Bodard: ‘Golden Lilies’
Isabel Yap: ‘Grass Cradle, Glass Lullaby’
Benjamin Chee: ‘Unrestful’
Eliza Chan: ‘Datsue-Ba’
Eeleen Lee: ‘Let Her In’
CY Yan: ‘The Poacher of Qingqiu’
Fran Terminello: ‘Aswang’
Sunil Patel: ‘The Vetalas’ Query’
Yukimi Ogawa: ‘Kokuri’s Palace’
Vajra Chandrasekera and Dave Johnson (art): ‘Vikurthimagga’
The book will have illustrations by Cindy Mochizuki, Vincent Holland-Keen, Kieran Walsh and Imran Siddiq.
african

Cover of African Monsters

Launch Day: Dark Travellings by Ian Whates

Ian Whates is not only an established author but runs the well respected and multi award winning British indie NewCon Press where new writers butt up against legendary names such as Tanith Lee and Neil Gaiman. With numerous short stories published and novels out with Solaris and Angry Robot, we at Fox Spirit were obviously extremely pleased when Ian said yes to doing a collection with us.

This is the third collection of Ian’s short stories, and our first with him. It’s a collection of thirteen of his darker tales for fans of the fantastic.

Welcome to Dark Travellings.
Cover image is by Michael Marshall Smith, layout by Vincent Holland-Keen

dark travellings - front

Showcasing the darker side of the author’s imagination, Dark Travellings takes us from a post-apocalyptic future where music offers mankind its only hope to a quiet country lane where an apparently chance encounter leads to deception and betrayal, from rain-swept London streets terrorised by a creature out of folklore to the nostalgic beauty of a seaside town, where a young girl learns far more about her grandfather than she ever wished to. We are introduced to a cast of heroes and villains, including a brilliant artist with a unique form of inspiration, an ordinary man who stands firm against a vampire horde, and a woman who personifies a dangerously misunderstood legend. Thirteen stories that reveal the best and the worst of humanity: murder, adultery, treachery and depravity, but also compassion, hope, and love. Thirteen stories that will unsettle, delight, and entertain.

“The stories of Ian Whates manifest a vivid particularity of place and a clarity of suspenseful plotting, along with an endearing ability to conjure up vivid characters both noble and nasty.”

– Paul Di Filippo.

“Ian’s stories, unexpected yet unnervingly apt, come as a masterfully easy read that can lull or shock, please and dismay, and may quietly break your heart.” – Tanith Lee

“It is his characters who live through the story and make the reader need to know just how it’s all going to pan out, human characters who may seem familiar but then there’s that one thing, that shifted alteration that changes the world and changes the reader too.” – Interzone

“Intelligent, ingenious, often funny, and told with an easy and down to earth style.” – Adrian Tchaikovsky

“Brilliantly inventive.” – SFX

Launch Day for Eve of War

You may remember BFS shortlister ‘Tales of Eve’ where Mhairi Simpson collected fantastic tales of women seeking their perfect partner in life and the consequences of the search. Well now we see Eve’s daughters, fierce and defiant stepping out to battle.

Edited by Mhairi Simpson, who once again pulled in a great group of authors and Darren Pulsford who curated them into the anthology, we bring you ‘Eve of War’

Cover art and layout by Vincent Holland-Keen

eve of war - final

Sharp of mind and instinct; with poise and grace and power – Eve’s Daughters are a match for any opponent. Whether seeking out a worthy test or assailed by brave (but foolish) foes, she is determined and cunning, and will not fail.

Here are fifteen tales from across the ages; full of prowess both martial and magical, from an array of unique voices.

Contents:

Miranda’s Tempest by S.J. Higbee
The Devil’s Spoke by K.T. Davies
Himura the God Killer by Andrew Reid
The Bind that Tie by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Et Mortuum Esse Audivit by Alasdair Stuart
Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick by Juliet McKenna
A Veil of Blades by R.J. Davnall
In Amber by Rob Haines
Skating Away by Francis Knight
Ballad of Sighne by Rahne Sinclair
The Crossing by Paul Weimer
Lucille by Alec McQuay
Born by G Clark Hellery
Repo by Ren Warom
One Sssingular Sssenssation by Chloe Yates