Rainbringer: Zora Neale Hurston Against The Lovecraftian Mythos Now In Audiobook

The audiobook version of Rainbringer: Zora Neale Hurston Against The Lovecraftian Mythos, narrated by Musu-kulla Massaquoi is now available! Give it a listen!

https://www.amazon.com/Rainbringer-Hurston-Against-Lovecraftian-Mythos/dp/B0BB862W5K/ref=tmm_aud_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1661485020&sr=8-1

Published in: on August 25, 2022 at 8:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Gilded Skulls In Shadows Over Avalon

Out now from 18th Wall Productions is Shadows Over Avalon, an anthology of Lovecraftian Arthurian stories featuring Dylan Freeman, Richard Sheppard, Josh Reynolds, Simon Bucher-Jones, Ethan Sabatella, Timothy Williams, Tim Mendees, Tim Hanlon.

My own offering, The Gilded Skulls, is a Lovecraftian take on the story of The Black Hermit from Perlesvaus, AKA The High Book of The Grail.

It takes place shortly after the loss of the Holy Grail (as depicted in my Arthurian novel The Knight With Two Swords) and follows Sir Gawaine, the pagan lord of the Castle of Marvels, as he investigates a strange black stream running through his lands, corrupting the fish and surrounding plant life. Following the stream to an oddly constructed castle, Caer Delex, he encounters his own sister Clarissant and a weird group of nuns bearing a reliquary wagon laden with jewel encrusted skulls, there to stop the master of the castle, The Black Hermit, and his army of knights in eyeless helms from despoiling the land of Avalon. But Gawaine and Clarissant can’t do it alone, and seek out an unlikely ally, the Christian knight, Sir Percival de Galis, whose father Gawaine slew long ago….

——————————————————————————————————————–

Clarissant tapped her teeth with the end of her finger.

“Whatever this Percival’s reputation, his sword is the only thing that could break the Mad Helm of the Black Hermit. But where is he?”

“Alas, I don’t know,” said Floree.

“He quests for the Lost Grail,” said Gawaine, “as do most of the Round Table. He could be anywhere. We might spend ages crawling over the hills and dales looking for him.”

“Then we need the eye of one no longer bound by hills and dales,” Clarissant said, and moved over to the sack containing the head of Ampflise. “Floree, bring me The Revelations.”

Floree rose and went to the reliquary. She began to rummage inside.

“I thought you’d had your fill of Christianity when they bricked you up inside that chapel wall,” Gawaine said teasingly.

“That was a misunderstanding on my part,” she said. “And I didn’t say which Revelations.”

She removed a number of candles from a bindle, which she set around the corners of the linen cloth.

She undid the fastenings on the sack and reached in to take the head of Ampflise from within. Her eyes narrowed.

“Gawaine,” she said, an edge of urgency to her voice. “Bring your sword over here.”

“What’s the matter?” Gawaine asked.

Clarissant stood and shook the sack from the head. When it fell away, Gawaine nearly pitched back on his culet.

The head of the Lady Ampflise twitched and shook in Clarissant’s hands. The black webbing that had spread from the arrow in its eye just beneath the flesh, had sprouted a mass of similarly black tendrils from the neck. These snaky protuberances writhed and wound around Clarissant’s wrists.

“If you’re doing that, stop it,” Gawaine said gravely.

“Of course I’m not doing it! Cut it, Gawaine! Use your sword! Cut it away!” she said, with an ever-increasing air of panic.

Gawaine drew Galatine and stepped toward his sister, unsure of precisely where to cut.

“Hurry, Gawaine! It’s….tightening….”

Gingerly he reached out and gripped one of the black tubers encircling Clarissant’s wrist with his gauntleted fingers. He was shocked to find them quite hard and unyielding. They were not roots or serpents at all, but a kind of animate metal, somehow hard as iron or stone and yet pliant.

Floree came over with a thick, mottled book bearing strange markings, and a blue velvet bag which she dropped in surprise. The bag opened, spilling its contents; a mortar and pestle, a tinkling bell, a brush, and a set of iron tongs.

“Oh!” Floree exclaimed, putting her hand to her mouth.

Gawaine pulled at the coil of black metal around his sister’s left wrist as much as he dared, and slid the blade of Galatine between it and her flesh, eliciting a sound of squealing metal against metal as he worked it down. He wasn’t sure if he could cut the stuff, but to his surprise, the edge of Galatine parted it easily. The severed portion fell to the grass and whipped about, the cut end glowing a bright emerald color.

Gawaine kicked it into the fire, where it flared green and melted instantly away like candlewax.

“Floree, pass me the tongs!” Clarissant called, as Gawaine gingerly sawed the other tendril from her wrist and again, hastily toed the cut portion into the campfire.

Floree handed her the tongs.

Clarissant put her palm to the severed head and pinned it to the ground, avoiding the mass of snaking metal tubers groping beneath the neck. She pinched the shaft of the black arrow in the tongs and pulled it from the narrow opening of Ampflise’s eye socket.

Gawaine watched in sickly fascination as the mass of tendrils were drawn up into the neck, the eye socket bulged, and the whole affair came bursting out of the wound, a disgusting, gleaming black mass caught like a squid in the pincers of Clarissant’s tongs.

Immediately the arrow shaft lost its rigidity and began to writhe and whip about like a thing alive, as if it had only been masquerading as an arrow.

Gawaine raised his sword to slash at the thing, but Clarissant swiftly turned and held it in the fire.

Floree set the book down and took up the mortar.

The black thing curled and undulated like a ball of snakes in pain over the flames, then ignited as the cut halves had, in a strange, green flash, dissolving too quickly for any natural metal. It liquefied like emerald mercury, and Floree was there to catch the drippings in the mortar, where it cooled instantly into fine green shavings.

“What is that stuff?” Gawaine whispered.

“The raw material of R’lyeh. That in which the Architects work,” said Clarissant. “Metal and stone, alive and dead.”

She went to work pulverizing and mashing it down with the clinking pestle, muttering under her breath words Gawaine could not understand. They surely weren’t the Latin spoken in the Christian masses.

Clarissant laid aside the tongs and took the mortar from Floree, who in turn, picked up the book with the mottled cover and knelt before Clarissant, holding it open, a human lectern.

Clarissant stirred the brush in the green stuff, reading in a loud voice some incantation from the strange book. She then turned and began to paint sharp, intricate green symbols on the severed head of Ampflise with the brush.

When she had covered the woman’s entire face and scalp, she sat back on her heels and dumped the remaining pigment in the fire, where it flared an angry green before being consumed. She set the painted head of Ampflise in the center of the linen and lit a candle at each corner. Then she put her forehead to the ground, spoke more words, and rang the bell three times.

The slack, painted face of Ampflise began to twitch, a horrid sight, around the gaping, ragged wound through which the black metal thing had been pulled.

Gawaine’s neck hairs uncurled and gooseflesh rose on his arms.

“What is….,” he began, but Floree hushed him.

He stepped back and stared wild-eyed at the magic proceedings, gripping Galatine for all his worth and wishing it was morning. Every shadow around the edge of the fire seemed pregnant with all manner of horrors, demons worse than that in Caer Delex, manipulating the dead face of Ampflise with unseen hands, like puppeteers of indecorous humor.

Clarissant addressed the head, but the only words Gawaine understood was her name, Ampflise.

The unmarred blue eye, which had been drooping in the dead face, rolled and focused finally on his sister.

Gawaine put the edge of his hand in his mouth to keep his teeth from clicking together. He bit deep into the leather between the steel joints when a low voice answered from the pale lips of Ampflise, echoing as though it came from somewhere far off.

Clarissant and the head conversed this way for a few moments, and the eye of Ampflise darted about as though searching for something. Then Clarissant rang the bell three times more and touched her head to the ground.

Floree shut the book. As soon as it closed, the animated face sagged lifeless once more.

Clarissant blew out the candles, carefully, reverently wrapped them up with the head in the linen cloth, and then stood and dropped the bundle in the fire.

“Sir Percival rests at the hermitage of Elyas on the River Luce,” Clarissant announced. “Do you know it, Gawaine?”

Gawaine sighed.

“It’s not far from here.”

Published in: on August 24, 2022 at 10:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Come On Down To Providence!

Tomorrow and Saturday I’ll be speaking at Necronomicon in Providence, Rhode Island! Come check me out!

Published in: on August 18, 2022 at 5:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

I’m On Lovecraft Ezine!

Hey!! Bucket list event! I was live on the much esteemed Lovecraft Ezine with fellow authors Douglas Wynne and Pete Rawlik under the direction of the illustrious Mike Davis!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHo0MFGSDrY

Published in: on July 19, 2022 at 7:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

A List Of Weird Western Books I Revere

Sherpherd invited me to compile a list of weird western books I recommend. Here it is!

https://shepherd.com/best-books/for-those-who-like-their-westerns-weird

Published in: on July 12, 2022 at 6:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Deferment: A Kolchak Story


Well, my Kolchack story was rejected from that antho. Not unkindly, but as I can’t do anything with it, here it is, free to read, as promised.

———————————————————————————————————-


At approximately 11:55 on the night of October the 6th, Gerald Fitzgerald, a twenty three year old student at Columbia College, rendezvoused with his paramour, one Miguel Pacheco, twenty two year old apprentice plumber, in a secluded, wooded area on the south end of Lincoln Park behind the Chicago Historical Society, which in recent years had gained a reputation as a meeting point for lovers of their particular persuasion.

It was while fumbling in the dark in a stand of bushes looking for a place to spread out a picnic blanket that the two ardent youths inadvertently stumbled into the penultimate chapter of what would prove to be one of the city of Chicago’s most unsettling family sagas, a story whose most macabre and fantastic elements had, in the nature of compelling narratives, been saved for last.

At some point close to the stroke of midnight, Fitzgerald and Pacheco perceived a strange muttering, and curious, followed the sound through the shrubbery to a manmade edifice which we now know to be the storied Couch Tomb. There, they perceived a feminine figure all in flowing white, luminous in the pitch black, facing its open doorway, arms upraised.

“Las tumbas pertenecen a los muertos, no a los vivos!” the ghost reportedly called out.

Mr. Fitzgerald, being of a more sensitive nature than Mr. Pacheco, cried out in alarm and found his exclamation echoed in a shrill, high voice by the ghostly figure.

Fitzgerald turned and ran through the bushes from the sight of the apparition, Pachceco in tow, and the two collided with Patrolman Anthony Diaz, who’d been assigned the unenviable task of dissuading the amorously inclined from further sullying the park’s long-suffering reputation.

The two did nothing to resist arrest, but entreated Officer Diaz to confirm what they had seen.

Diaz crept through the bushes, weapon and flashlight drawn.

He found no moon-white specter waiting for him at the now sealed iron door of the Couch Tomb, but there on the stone porch, he saw what he surmised to be seven neat, red drops of fresh blood….

Of course, I didn’t get this part of the story from Officer Diaz until a day after the events in question transpired.

Vincenzo, at his wits end after the pursuit of my last story had yet again failed to yield a publishable article for the INS, had assigned me an excessively boring task; covering the extensive renovation plans being enacted by the city to prepare Lincoln Park for the hosting of the Second Annual National Garden and Landscaping Convention next spring.

So, with my TC-40 over my shoulder, I made my way down to the Lincoln Park Cultural Center to the office of administrator Gus Skalka, whom I found engaged in a heated discussion with a woman of some official capacity.

“Gus,” the woman said, tiredly. “You’re not proposing anything new here. The city didn’t have the money to relocate the tomb in 1864 and it doesn’t have the money now.”

“Excuse me…tomb?” I interrupted.

“The Couch tomb,” the woman explained. “It’s the last remnant of the old cemetery.”

“You mean the park used to be a graveyard?”

“It still is, unless you believe the city actually relocated twenty thousand bodies. Who are you?”

“Ah sorry. Carl Kolchak Independent News Service.”

“My nine ‘o clock appointment,” said Skalka. “Apologies, Mr. Kolchak,” he said, looking at the woman pointedly. “It seems my eight thirty is running a little over.”

I planted myself in a chair against the wall.

“Oh go ahead, I don’t mind if you don’t mind,” I said, holding up my tape recorder.

“I don’t. Thank you, Mr. Kolchak,” said the woman.

 “Yeah, thanks a lot,” said Skalka, sighing and rubbing his forehead with the palm of one meaty hand.

“Carl, please,” I said, tipping my hat. “Uh…and you are?”

“Carol Davenport. I’m with the Historical Society.”

“Look, Carl…,” Skalka began.

“Hm?” I said.

“Um. Carol,” Skalka corrected himself. “OK, maybe we aren’t talking about relocation at all.”

“Surely you’re not suggesting demolition?” Carol exclaimed in disbelief.

“That thing is an eyesore.”

“That thing dates back to 1858!” said Carol, obviously impassioned. “It’s a van Osdel!”

“Excuse me, a van what?”

Skalka shrugged.

“John van Osdel?” Carol said. “The city’s first architect of note? It’s probably the oldest structure to survive the fire of 1871.”

“People don’t want to be reminded they’re picnicking in an old cemetery, Carol. Plus it’s become a hangout for junkies and a make-out spot for….”

He glanced at me and cleared his throat.

“Well, we’re supposed to be improving the park’s image. You know we had two arrests last night?”

“At the tomb?” I interrupted.

“Yes,” said Skalka. “Somebody tried to break in.”

“Did they get inside?” I asked.

“It would take a bulldozer to get inside,” said Carol. “It’s been sealed for over a hundred years.”

“Well, they claimed the door was wide open last night,” Skalka said, laughing into his coffee cup. “Maybe they really did see the ghost.”

“What ghost?” I asked, intrigued.

“It’s a local legend,” said Skalka, waving his hand. “Something about showing up at midnight and saying something and the tomb opens and you see the ghost of Ira Couch or his wife or something. The thing’s a magnet for all sorts of weirdness, especially this time of year. Dead animals and…”

“Dead animals?” I asked.

Skalka looked down at my tape recorder.

“Um. Mr. Kolchak are you recording?”

“Yes sir, I’ve been recording since I got here. The lady said she didn’t mind.”

He cleared his throat.

“Well, let’s just say it has a sordid reputation and leave it at that.”

Carol stood up, shouldering her purse.

“I have to go, Gus,” she said abruptly. “I’m late for another appointment.”

“Alright Carol,” said Skalka. “But listen, I’ll be pushing for removal at the next meeting.”

“And I’ll be petitioning for preservation,” she said from the doorway. “Good day, Mr. Kolchak,” she said to me.

I tipped my hat as she let the door slam shut resoundingly, her heels clacking off down the hall.

“Something I don’t understand,” I said, backtracking, “why is that tomb the only thing still standing from the old cemetery? I mean, there must have been other mausoleums.”

“Mr. Kolchak, wouldn’t you rather talk about the preparations for the upcoming National Garden and Landscaping Convention? I know I would. Anyway, isn’t that why you’re here?”

It was, of course, so I settled in for the long haul. I could almost hear Vincenzo laughing from his office.

As Couch’s tomb obstinately remained a part of the park, it settled into my craw as well, and I decided to take a closer look.

I found the tomb by asking around. It was just a stone’s throw from the back of the Historical Society where Ms. Davenport plotted like an enemy general against the machinations of Gus Skalka and the city parks and recreation department.

The tomb was a solid, grey bunker of cemetery stone, unadorned but for the name Couch over the iron door and various encroaching flora. Skalka’s talk about animals and a ghost and weird happenings interested me, but I didn’t see much of anything out of the ordinary beyond the fact that it was sitting in a public park only a few steps from the busy traffic of LaSalle Drive.

A city groundskeeper saw me taking pictures.

“Hey there!” I called to him. “What do you know about this old chestnut?”

“I know around this time of year I always end up picking dead chickens and such off the porch.”

“Dead chickens?”

“Yep. Throats cut and bled all over. Devil worshipping stuff, you ask me.”

“You ever see who’s doing that?”

“Nah, they come at night I guess, and they’re gone by morning. Doesn’t always happen. Just sometimes.”

“Mainly around this time of year?”

“Halloween. Yeah. Brings out the nuts.”

“You ever hear the ghost story? Midnight recitations and all that?”

“Sure. Two kids got pinched last night messing around here, said they saw it. Door open and everything.”

I looked over the vault door. It seemed pretty solid, and I didn’t see a hinge.

“What’s that thing you’re supposed to say?”

“The graves belong to the dead, not the living,” the groundskeeper said in his best Vincent Price voice, which actually wasn’t bad.

Curiosity was leading me to a midnight appointment in Lincoln Park. Maybe I could sell Vincenzo on a Halloween flavor piece.

I had a lot of time to kill, and as the Historical Society was only a few steps from the tomb, I decided to follow up with Ms. Davenport.

Her co-worker, Mr. Murray, informed me she had gone downtown to file the necessary paperwork to have the tomb in question declared a landmark, as she had said she would.

It turned out the Couch family was the subject of a book Mr. Murray was researching. As a man who seemed to spend most of his time perusing the lonely stacks of his dusty domain, when I asked him about the identity of his silent neighbor I found him excitedly forthcoming.

“Which one?” he said with a kind of macabre glee, so eager to speak into my mic for posterity that I had to pull it away a little to keep him from swallowing it whole.

“Well, let’s start with Ira Couch and go on down the line.”

“Ira was a hotelier,” Murray began. “He came from nothing, built the city’s first luxury hotel, Tremont House. Twice. It burned down once in October of 1839 and again in October of 1843.”

“October was an unlucky month for him,” I remarked.

“Very. It burned a third time in 1871.” He looked at me expectantly.

“The Great Chicago fire,” I said. “What month was that?”

“October again,” Murray chuckled, happy I’d picked up what he’d laid down. “The 8th. Same say as the other two fires.”

“Say that’s a little more than a coincidence. He must have made a bundle to be able to keep rebuilding. Is it still standing?” I asked.

“Oh yes. The family fell into dire straits and sold it to Northwestern University around the turn of the century.”

“I guess the university had more luck. So what happened to Ira?”

“He died suddenly while vacationing in Cuba in 1857. There were provisions in his will to cover the cost of the tomb, which was a good idea as it was something around seven thousand dollars, more expensive than most houses of the time…by far.”

“And his wife was interred with him? It’s a big tomb for two people. Looks like it could hold more.”

“It might,” said Murray. “Ira’s brother, daughter, grandson…there could be up to eleven bodies in there. Generations. Or none at all.”

“You mean it could be empty?”

“I don’t want to hurt Ms. Davenport’s chances at having the tomb declared a landmark,” Murray begged off. “You know Mr. Kolchak, the presence of corpses tips the scale in such matters.”

He leaned forward into the mic again and I had to bring it further back.

“But Ira and his wife have headstones at Gracehill Cemetery up north. Their corporate office is very stingy with the old burial records.”

“Why?”

“Some say the Couch family pays Gracehill not to divulge that information.”

“Why would they care?”

“That’s hard to say, because there hasn’t been a living Couch in the last few decades. The family’s fortunes dwindled and the last descendent died off.”

“But then who’s paying Gracehill?”

“Ms. Davenport told me confidentially that she learned from an employee that the cemetery’s discretion was paid for in perpetuity by Ira Couch himself. In his will.”

“That’s pretty forward thinking,” I muttered.

I gave Mr. Murray my card and asked him to tell Ms. Davenport I’d been by, and to call me if he turned up anything else interesting concerning the Couches and their eternal abode. I made my way back to my car, thinking to go home and nap before the appointed hour.

I found an angular sort of gent, black haired, with a wine dark suit whose price tag would have made my seersucker blush slipping a business card under my windshield wiper while he whistled a catchy little tune.

“She’s not for sale,” I said.

“I’m not in the market anyway, Mr. Kolchak,” the man said in an accent that I pegged for Latin American.

“You have me at a disadvantage, Mister…”

“Forgive me. Domingo Seaver is my name. I’m a collections agent.”

“What are you looking to collect on, Mr. Seaver?” I asked nervously, trying to think of the last time I’d bet on the Cubs and when my next paycheck was due in. I fumbled with my keys and dropped them.

Seaver stooped and handed them to me.

“Rest easy. No debt of yours, Mr. Kolchak. I am seeking tardy remuneration for services rendered. The debtor has gone to great lengths to avoid repayment, even going so far as to steal an object of remarkable value from another party in the hope of….”

“Robbing Peter to pay Paul?”

“Yes,” he said, smiling a row of fine, even white teeth. “They have since gone to ground. Assumed a false identity.”

“Well, what does this have to do with me, Mr. Seaver? I’m no private eye.”

“Nevertheless, I have reason to believe your current investigation has crossed over my own. I ask only that you contact me should you happen across the individual in the course of fulfilling your duties, so that I might in turn fulfill my own.”

“My current…I’m covering a story about park renovation,” I said, slipping past him. Something about him got under my skin. He had movie star looks but dirty fingernails.

He reached over and opened my door for me. I’d evidently missed seeing him put my key into the lock.

“Thanks. Well, who am I supposed to keep an eye out for?”

“That is difficult to say,” said Seaver, closing the door. “The surest method of identification would be their possession of the stolen collectible. It is quite singular in appearance. A porcelain tureen with gold accents, inset with cowrie shells. The lid would be sealed with black wax.”

I turned my engine over and laid my camera and recorder on the seat next to me.

“Black wax? Well, Mr. Seaver….,” I said, looking up at him.

But there was no ‘him’ to see. Seaver was gone. I looked up and down the street, but saw no sign of him. I shook my head, reached over, and pulled his card off my windshield. There was his name and occupation in gold lettering, but no number anywhere on it – a sure reason for getting a new printing company if ever I’d seen one.

I drove off, whistling Seaver’s tune. Like I said, it was catchy.

After a modest dinner and what I had proposed to be a nap, I found I had overslept. I arrived at Lincoln Park around 11:58 on the evening of the 7th, sure I was going to miss my appointment with whatever was scheduled to appear at the tomb.

In my hurry to reach it, I suddenly made the acquaintance of the aforementioned Patrolman Diaz.

“Park’s closed,” he informed me. “Didn’t you see the sign?”

“Well, it’s dark,” I said.

“Yeah well it closes at sundown. They all do. What are you doing out here?”

“Sorry, Officer, my name’s Carl Kolchak. I’m with the INS. I’m doing a story, a Halloween piece on the Couch tomb….”

It was at that point that we heard the spine prickling shriek, piercing at first, but then dwindling out in the dark.

We both ran towards it, towards Couch’s tomb, Diaz’s flashlight spot bouncing in front of us, until at last it fell like a stark stage light on some Grand Guignol performance. There, sprawled on the porch of the tomb, was a woman all in white, blood spilling brightly down the front of her dress, her dark eyes shrinking in the light of the policeman’s flash as she gasped her last breath.

Diaz went to her side to check her vitals, but hesitated. I saw his eyes go to a green and yellow bracelet on the victim’s wrist, and a series of colored beads around her neck. She was an older woman, Hispanic, and her dark face was marked with patterns of white paint.

Diaz checked her pulse and then recited something low in Spanish.

Then he arrested me.

“Kolchak, what the hell’s going on?” Vincenzo roared as I retrieved my camera and recorder from booking, having spent the night in a holding cell and playing dumb to a homicide detective with Oscar-worthy aplomb. “You’re supposed to be covering the prepwork for a flower convention!”

“I was, Tony, I assure you,” I said, scanning the station for Officer Diaz. “I was taking pictures of the grounds to accompany my piece. A before and after comparison. Should have been a literal walk in the park.”

“At midnight?”

“Night blooming flowers?” I suggested.

“What’s this about a murder?”

“Well you know, a good reporter, I think, has a nose for these kinds of things. He puts himself in the way and just attracts news.”

“I’ve got a nose for something too,” Vincenzo muttered. “And what you’re attracting is flies, Carl. What’s the story here?”

“Trust me, Tony! Good stuff for the Halloween edition.”

“Every edition isn’t the Halloween edition. I want the parks and rec story by tomorrow morning. Your extracurricular activities better not delay it.”

“You’ll have it and more, mein capitan.”

“And next time don’t spend your one phone call on me. It’ll be a waste.”

“Ja vol,” I said, saluting as we came out into the sunshine. “Hey I could still use a ride back to the park to retrieve my car.”

“Get a cab,” Vincenzo said, stomping off down the street. “I did.”

As fate would have it, Officer Diaz exited the station behind me in plainclothes, evidently finishing his shift.

“Oh,” he said. “Sorry about the detainment, Mr. Kolchak. We have to cover all our bases. No hard feelings, huh?”

“Not at all not at all,” I said, waving my hand. “Any word on who that woman was?”

He looked at me uncertainly.

“I’m not really at liberty to give you a press release,” he said, and began to walk.

“Off the record,” I said, keeping up with him.

“Off the record, no. But she had a Cuban passport.”

“Are you Cuban? I ask because of what you said over the body. Sounded like a prayer….”

“What are you asking me, Kolchak?”

“Well I noticed that woman had a green and yellow bracelet on….sort of like the one you’re wearing.”

“Pretty sharp,” Diaz said, holding up his hand so the bracelet showed on his wrist. “That’s an ide bracelet. It means that woman was a santera. A priestess.”

“Like a Voodoo priestess?”

“Santeria, man,” said Diaz.

“Her throat was cut wasn’t it? Is there human sacrifice in Santeria?”

“No, man. It’s a legit religion, not some kind of comic book jive. At least…not when it’s practiced for good.”

“Chickens, though?”

“We call it matanza,” said Diaz. “An ebbo – a blood offering to the oricha. The ancestral spirits.”

“Why would somebody make an ebbo at the door of the Couch tomb? Anything special about October the 7th? 8th?”

“Not that I know.” He stopped at an oldsmobile parked on the street. “This is me.”

“Oh one more thing,” I said snapping my fingers as he got in his car.

“I got two nights off, Kolchak. And I wanna get started on ‘em.”

“Do you use tureens in Santeria? Uh, fancy porcelain with cowrie shells…sealed with black wax?”

He looked at me sharply.

“You’re describing a sopera,” he said. “It contains the fundamentos of a Santeria temple. Sacred objects in which the patron oricha spirit dwells. But black wax? Nah, that’s not a thing. You should quit poking, Kolchak. This stuff ain’t for you, dig?”

As he pulled away from the curb and I began my long, thoughtful walk back to the car, whistling that tune.

I returned to the INS office to write up the parks and rec story, and while taking a break to grab a coffee, the regular thunderous passage of the L train outside the office windows nearly made me miss my ringing desk phone.

It was Mr. Murray.

“Mr. Kolchak!” he said excitedly. “I wonder if you’d be interested in drumming up interest in my book with an article on the Couch family.”

“Well I was thinking about a Halloween piece, Mr. Murray,” I said. “I’d be willing to cite you as a source and mention your book. Did you find something new to add?”

“I’ll say! Something revelatory,” Murray said. “Remember how I told you the last living Couch descendant passed away? I’ve found another and,” he said, lowering his voice to a whisper, “you won’t believe who it is. Miss Davenport. Right here in the Historical Society! Can you believe it? I feel like I’ve been working alongside hidden royalty the whole time!”

“How’ you figure this out?” I asked.

“Well the fortunes of the family did dwindle drastically in the last decade. That part’s true. But I was digging in the Cook County vital records and found her petition. She legally changed her name. Probably to avoid the back taxes the family had incurred over the years. Isn’t that fascinating?”

“Very. Is she in today?”

“No she called in sick. You know as her coworker I’d feel a little weird approaching her about this but as you’re a reporter…”

“Sure sure, that sounds swell, Mr. Murray! Why don’t we both compile a list of questions and you get back to me?”

I hung up.

Miss Davenport wasn’t in.

But I had a pretty good idea where she’d be.

I didn’t bother to sleep this time, so I arrived at the park at 11:45 with plenty of time to make my way to the tomb. It was surrounded by police tape and sawhorse barricades, but I got a good vantage to watch the action, whatever it was.

Some kind of ritual had been interrupted by the arrival of the santera the night before. I knew there was nothing stopping it tonight. Not even Officer Diaz.

I kept an eye on my watch.

11:55.

11:56.

Then at 11:58 I heard it. A low female voice chanting in Spanish.

I crept closer. The approach to the tomb was clear around the bushes but I hadn’t seen anybody enter.

No doubt somebody was there, though. The closer I got the louder it was. There was a faint orange glow under the lip of the door, flickering.

I crouched down, leaning against the door to slip my mic as close to the gap as I could get, so as to get a clearer recording.

And then I heard a grinding noise, and the door swung inward.

I tumbled inside.

I found myself inside a kind of small foyer lined with funeral drawers. I counted ten, made out Ira Couch’s bronze nameplate, others. Seated against each of the drawers was a hand sewn doll. Their costumes ranged from white Victorian gowns to modern suits. But what got my attention was a second door set into the far wall. Inside was a candlelit altar, blazing. In the center was the white tureen, the gilded sopera Seaver had described, draped in colored necklaces and surrounded by severed black chicken heads, deliberately arranged. There was a smoking cigar in an ashtray and a large botte of clear fluid.

I peered into the inner room. The chanting had stopped. I got out my camera to take a picture.

As I moved into the inner doorway, a horrific, painted pale face shrieked at me from the dim corner, and a blur of white came at me, brandishing a silver knife.

In surprise I triggered my flash, blinding the figure, and dove into the room to duck the knife. I fell against the altar, and tureen, beads, ashtray, and poultry head came crashing down in heap. Whatever was contained in the tureen exploded in a flash of light as blinding as a lightning bolt.

Then a tremendous, howling wind blew into the tomb, snuffing out the candles. It was a hurricane gale, so loud it sounded like the roaring of a great voice. It knocked me flat.

When I looked up blinking through the red spots, I saw the outline of a man standing in the tomb’s outer doorway.

Carol Davenport saw him too and screamed.

He stepped inside, and the dolls in the outer foyer burst into flame.

I couldn’t make out his face, but he held out his hand beckoned, and Carol Davenport went to him as if in a trance, taking hold of his elbow as though he were an old fashioned suitor.

They turned and left the tomb.

I picked myself up off the floor, found my camera, and stumbled outside between the burning dolls.

There was no on outside just the cool, dwindling wind.

At 6:30 in the morning after a sleepless night of listening to my tape recordings, I returned to the empty INS office, whistling that same tune that had been stuck in my head all day to keep my hackles down.

I poured myself a pot of coffee, threw my hat on the tree, missing as usual, and plunked myself down in front of the typewriter to begin punching out the events as best as I could parse them out. The only other sound in the place was the hum of a fan somebody had left on.

A feeling came over me as I hammered away at the page. A cold draft, as if someone had walked over my grave. There was a subtle shift in the dim morning light and shadows spilled into the room like black paint. The fan stopped. I couldn’t even hear the clock ticking.

And there he was, standing over my shoulder.

Domingo Seaver.

I could only stare. I was sure I hadn’t hear a door open.

“I thought perhaps you deserved an explanation, Mr. Kolchak,” Domingo said. “You and your readers.”

“That was you in the tomb tonight, wasn’t it?”

Seaver only raised his eyebrows patiently.

“Well, I said, leaning back in my chair to affect an air of nonchalance I did not actually have. “I’m all ears, Mr. Seaver.”

“Tell me what you think you know and I will fill in the blanks.”

“Why?”

“Because it amuses me.”

“Alright,” I said, swiveling in my chair and narrowing my eyes at the strange figure standing in the dark. “Ira Couch showed incredible fortune in managing to go from nothing to a wildly successful hotelier. I think he must have made some kind of high interest business arrangement with some extremely influential party. I think he attempted to renege on his end of the deal, whatever it was, and the person to whom he was indebted burned his hotel to the ground. He still had enough pull though to raise it up again. A remarkable feat. Maybe he convinced his unknown business partner that this time he’d be good for it.”

“Or he offered something more valuable as collateral,” said Seaver.

“OK…October 8th 1843 comes around. Seems like that’s the agreed upon deadline for him to repay his loan or whatever it is. The hotel burns again. But…Couch rebuilds again. Whatever he offered his business partner this time, it must have really been something.”

“It was,” said Seaver.

“But this time Couch develops a scheme to duck his debt. He travels to Cuba….”

“And?”

“Well Mr. Seaver, there I’m a little at a loss. Whatever it was, it involves Santeria. I guess it depends on what it was Couch was dealing with. What was his collateral?”

“First, his soul,” said Seaver. “The standard contract. The second time, to extend his contract, it was the soul of every subsequent generation of his family. A precious thing, an innocent soul. But the souls of generations? Incalculable. ”

“Souls,” I said quietly, gripping the arms of my chair. “Where was I?”

“Cuba.”

“In Cuba then, he steals what the santeras call a sopera. It contains the ancestral spirits worshipped by the locals.  He seals it by some method I don’t understand.”

“Couch was a nefarious and clever sorcerer,” said Seaver. “And he knew he could hide the souls of himself and his loved ones in the glow of a trapped orischa.”

“Sure,” I said. “I imagine his debtor had trouble even approaching something like that. But what about the fire of 1871? The hotel burned along with most of the city.”

“An attempt to flush a rabbit out of hiding, Mr. Kolchak. Quite unavoidable.”

 “Alright,” I said. “Each generation of Couches defends the hiding place of the Couch souls. Feeds the trapped orischa with blood every October to keep the wolves from the door. Who was the Cuban woman who was killed?”

“I told you I wasn’t the only interested party.”

“She’d come looking for the stolen sopera.”

“And Ms. Davenport stopped her.”

There hadn’t been any sign of the killer fleeing the scene because Carol Davenport had been inside the tomb. All she had to do was hide till the coroner hauled the body off.

“Tonight, that flash. The wind. The orischa broke loose.”

“Thanks to you. Very good, Mr. Kolchak. Very impressive.”

He looked out the dark window.

“Well, you have your story, and I at last, have my payment. Fair and square, as they say.”

I looked over Seaver’s shoulder at the clock on the wall. The second hand had stopped.

“Your payment. So you’re….” It was a lot to wrap my head around. “What happens now?” I asked.

Seaber smiled and raised his eyebrows.

“Now you decide how much to publish yourself, and how much to allot to Mr. Murray’s book. Have a good day, Mr. Kolchak. Be seeing you.”

He turned and crossed the empty aisle, went to the door, and out into the hall, whistling the same tune I had this morning.

The fan began to blow.

The clock resumed its ticking, and the sun came bright through the window.

I turned back to my typewriter and fished in my pocket for his business card.

D. Seaver.

As soon as I held it up to the sunlight it went up like magician’s flash powder in my fingers.


This was intended for Kolchack’s anniversary, so as you can see, I thought I’d come up with a story for what was going on in the famous opening sequence, and an origin for his catchy whistle. Oh well. C’est la vie!

Published in: on June 14, 2022 at 6:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Gymkata Test

What’s your Gymkata Test?

Gymkata, for those who don’t know, is a 1985 Action movie starring Olympic gymnast Kurt Thomas as Jonathan Cabot, an Olympic gymnast recruited by the US government to compete in a deadly survival game in the mountainous insular country of Parmistan. Those who win this ancient game, which is a kind of endurance foot race during which competitors must overcome various physical obstacles and navigate a walled village where Parmistan deposits its criminally insane, are allowed one request of the ruling Khan, which he cannot deny. The guvmint wants the Khan’s permission to install a satellite monitoring station. On a more personal level, Jonathan is out to learn what became of one of the Game’s previous competitors, his missing father. To prepare him for the ordeal, he is trained to integrate his natural agility and gymnastic techniques with the martial arts, and thus, as the narrator says in the trailer, “combine the discipline, the timing, and the power of gymnastics with the explosive force of karate, and a new, all-powerful martial art is born – GYMKATA.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Mkl9rtttog

Now, what is the Gymkata Test?

Gymkata is my least favorite movie. By that I mean, if I were to make a list of my 100 favorite movies, Gymkata would be at the bottom. It’s goofy and it’s unrealistic and some of the acting is not so great and I love it. I can hum the score. I own it, and have watched it multiple times.

All I ask of any movie I see is that it be as least as entertaining and rewatchable as Gymkata. It’s surprising (mostly to other people) how many movies tend to fall short of this simple, modest measuring stick.

I recognize that this is not a good movie, but it’s entertaining to me…and there is nothing in all of cinema like the Village of The Crazies sequence, which culminates in Kurt Thomas fending off an entire village of knife wielding lunatics whirling around on the back of a cleverly (?) disguised pommel horse. Gymkata is my comfort food.

I wore the hell out of this shirt until it disintegrated.

Combine the reliability, entertainment factor, and the utter uniqueness of this movie, and a new, all-powerful method of judging cinema is born….The Gymkata Test.

So I ask you, what is your Gymkata Test? What is your least favorite movie, the one you can reach for and unabashedly embrace over a movie like say, The English Patient, a distinguished, prestige motion picture laden down with awards and critical accolades, or even a massively popular bit of entertainment that just doesn’t do it for ya personally?

Published in: on June 2, 2022 at 2:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mindbreaker Is Back In Bond Unknown!

Paperbacks are few and far between, but April Moon has just put Bond Unknown up on Kindle.

Featuring William Meikle’s Into The Green and my own Mindbreaker, Bond Unknown is a mashup of Ian Fleming’s 007 and the Lovecraftian Mythos.

Read an excerpt from Mindbreaker here https://emerdelac.wordpress.com/2017/09/14/mindbreaker-in-bond-unknown-from-april-moon-books/

And pick it up in Kindle here –

Published in: on May 19, 2022 at 6:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Head Like A Jar, Appearing In Call of Poohthulhu from April Moon Books

No it’s not an April Fool’s joke, it’s an April Moon antho.

Yes, my beloved Canadian publisher April Moon Books, who put out my James Bond vs. Cthulhu novel Mindbreaker is back with another inspired and unlikely pairing, this time the roly-poly denizens of Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood and the nameless entities of old H.P.

The Celery at the Threshold by John Linwood Grant

The Very Black Goat by Christine Morgan

Back to the Black Bog by Lee Clark Zumpe

Where Howls the Edgog by Pete Rawlik

In Which We Discover the 101st Acre by Robert Ottone

Eeyore Makes a Friend by Jackson Parker

When She Was Very Tired by Lisa Cunningham

The Statement Of Eeyore Carter by Kevin Wetmore

Acrewood by Jude Reid

And my entry, Head Like A Jar, in which Piglet finds himself pursued by a Heffalump.

In addition, I’m over the moon to know that Carmen Cerra, an extremely talented artist I’ve been trying to get another book off the ground with for a while now, has been brought on board to illustrate. He’s really going to elevate this collection in a way I’m not sure it quite could all on its own.

Art by Carmen Cerra

I’ve had something of a rough couple of years. At first I sort of shook my head at the idea of this book, but I very quickly warmed to the idea of attempting to write a Milne-esque story. I read Winnie The Pooh and The House At Pooh Corner to my eldest daughter Magnolia in the womb, and later reread the stories to each of my kids, so I know them like Edward Bear knows the bottom of a honey pot. They hold a Very Special Place in my heart.

Writing this story was sheer joy and went a signifcant way towards alleviating some of the real-life burdens I’ve been feeling late. Gave me my happy back for a bit, and broke through an annoyingly long spate of writer’s block I’d been allowing myself to butt up against. I hope readers will glean something useful from this silly little story, at the very least enjoyment, just as I hope my children will one day pick it up and get a smile from it, knowing their father as they do.

Here’s an excerpt….a brief one, because I don’t want to give too much away.


Piglet tumbled head-over-heels down from the top of the Forest, over the close set grass, and didn’t stop tumbling until one of the sixty something trees that surrounded the clearing kindly stepped in his way.

He lay that way for a little bit, looking up and waiting for the grass and the darkening sky to decide which was on top. The sky was very cloudy and cross, so eventually it won out. The grass stooped and apologized for having given offense. Then the sky cracked a bit of strange, red lightning like a coach whip which told Piglet he had better get on his way. So he did, though he wasn’t sure just where he was going.

It got very stormy and dark, like a spilled inkpot spreading across a sky blue sheet, but it did not rain. That was something, at least.

As he scurried along through the spinneys Piglet heard a Very Loud Sound behind him, like a large animal Sniffling and Snuffling. He remembered just then that he had been going Away, and so he continued going there with all haste.

Piglet could not recall a Dark So Total in the Forest, though admittedly he spent most nights fast asleep, dreaming of what he would do the next day or what he had done the previous day, or things he might never do however many days he had. He wished he were dreaming now in his warm bed instead of running through the trees, for he had quite forgotten the way and it was getting so very dark it was hard to see by.

If he could not be asleep, then he wished at least that he were not Alone.

Eventually he came to a place he half-recognized, though it was not a place he frequented and not the one he had been wishing to get to, it being particularly Gloomy and wet here. However, it was Away from the Very Loud Sound, and so he supposed he musn’t be ungrateful.

“Hullo, who is that?” came a sad voice that he knew somehow belonged to this place (or was it the other way around?).

“P-p-piglet,” Piglet answered, hugging himself because being Alone there was no one else to hold onto.

“Good morning P-p-piglet,” said the voice, belonging to a low gray something standing with its neck bowed in the gloom. “If it is a good morning, or morning at all, which I doubt.”

Piglet thought hard. It was as if the Dark So Total had leaked into his thinker, and he had to strike a match to see his own memories by, and the match was all wet and soggy.

“Eeyore!” he said at last, and toddled over to find the gray donkey standing to up his knees in the bog, nosing at a thistle. “Oh Eeyore!” Piglet said, and threw his arms excitedly around Eeyore’s neck. “I am so happy to see you!”

“You are?”

“Yes!”

Me, Eeyore?”

“Yes! I was so scared, running through the Forest. I was just wishing I could find anybody at all.”

“Oh. Well. I suppose being anybody is better than being nobody.”

“Eeyore, there’s a Very Loud Sound back there,” Piglet said, nervously pointing back the way he’d come.

“What sort of a sound?” Eeyore said, cocking one of his ears in the direction Piglet had pointed.

“It’s like a sort of…Sniffling and Snuffling. I don’t want to stay here.”

“Not many do.”

“I mean, it’s so Very Loud, it hurts my ears. I’m trying to get Away, do you understand?”

“I understand wanting to be Away. Some can afford the luxury. Some can’t. But there it is.”

“There what is?”

Eeyore sighed, very long and very loud.

“Nothing. I think I hear your Sound, Little Piglet. It’s coming closer. My, all this Unexpected Company in the middle of the night.”

“I thought it was the middle of the morning,” said Piglet, nervously looking back the way he’d come.

“It may be,” said Eeyore, considering it. “One middle can look much like the other in a Dark So Total….”

Published in: on April 5, 2022 at 12:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Are We There Yet? Appearing In Horror On Holiday from Golden Goblin Press

Oscar Rios and editor Brian Sammons are bringing out a new Lovecraftian anthology from Golden Goblin Press called Horror On Holiday via Kickstarter, so head on over there and kick a buck –

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/golden-goblin-press/horror-on-holiday-tales-of-vacations-taking-very-dark-turns?ref=ksr_email_user_watched_project_launched

Peep the lineup –

A Gilded Butterfly by Glynn Owen Barrass
You Take It With You by Helen Gould
In Light Accessible by John Linwood Grant
Geneaology by William Meikle
A Palette of Honey and Amber by Andi Newton
Castles In The Sand by Peter Rawlik and Sal Ciano
Thin Ice by Oscar Rios
A Kingdom of Magic by Brian S. Sammons
The Isle of Ma’an Du by Sam Stone
The Fun Fair by Tim Waggoner
The Family In The Wood by Helen Yau
Summoning My Soul To Endless Sleep by Lee Clarke Zumpe

My own offering Are We There Yet? concerns a beleaguered father on an extended road trip with his family. They pull into a lonely gas station where the elderly attendant passes a brochure for a chintzy roadside attraction to his excitable son. As the boy becomes more and more obsessed with seeing the dubious wonders promised in the brochure, the father notices the compulsion spreading to the other members of the family, and finally to himself, as a series of increasingly insistent advertisements guide them further and further off their intended route.

Here’s the opening lines –

——————————-

Greg Trezvant signaled his exit.

Between Lisa’s shrill screaming over the kids’ cacophony in the backseat and a growing, paranoid suspicion that the GPS was somehow lying to him, the green turnoff sign that promised Gas-Food (probably in the wrong order, Greg reflected) looked like the emerald leaves of a shimmering oasis in an endless desert dotted with No Facilities cacti.

His seven year old, Robert, was pinching himself through his sweatpants and wailing for a toilet in a tone so high and resonating Greg was this close to bleeding out of his ears. A year ago they had had trouble keeping the kid from taking a leak in the bushes in front of the house, but Lisa had discouraged his habit of pissing in the open so effectively Robert was now unable to even fathom jumping out of the car and going in a ditch. Greg had pulled over and physically removed him from the vehicle at one point and yanked down his trousers only to watch his son dance in place screaming until Lisa had loudly demanded they both get back in and stop wasting time.

Jainey was exacerbating things, hollering for her little brother to shut up, presumably so she could hear every minute intonation of whatever was thumping in her earbuds. She was eleven and had apparently outgrown empathy somewhere around her last birthday.

Lindsey’s Filling Station was exactly that. Not a proper gas station, but a throwback to the days of yesteryear when mechanics would answer the ringing of the Milton bell and come swarming over your car to check the fluids and tires. The rusted old Pepsi Cola gas pump had no POS pad in sight, just a handwritten sign that said “Please Pay Inside Before You Pump!”

Inside looked a bit dubious. The building was as old as the gas pump, with thick, dusty glass. There was no chain fast food joint or ice cream place adjoining, but another exclamatory handwritten sign promised “Best Homemade Jerky On The Interstate!”

It was the restroom Robert was interested in, and he and Lisa hit the ground running like a couple of Green Berets disembarking from a Huey. They rushed in, jangling the sleigh bells over the door as it banged open, Lisa yelling, “Bathrooooom?”

Greg saw a gnarled finger on a liver spotted hand reach out and point through the doorway, and his wife and son wheeled and charged down that direction.

He cut the engine with deliberate slowness and turned in his seat, tapping Jainey on the knee to alert her that he was exiting the vehicle.

“Why’re we stopping here?” she shouted.

“Come on. You know why.”

“What?”

He tapped his earlobe and she rolled her eyes and turned down her music.

“I said you know why. Come on. Get out and stretch your legs, hit the toilet. I don’t know when we’ll see another one.”

“Why don’t we ever stop anywhere interesting?” Jainey whined.

Inside, the shelves of the little gas station were packed with crap; dusty quarts of oil, chintzy souvenir keychains and postcards, heaps of salty, sugary snacks. Crap, crap, and made-to-be crap. Jainey drifted in, sweeping the shelves with her bored eyes like a shark bloated from killing but still ostensibly in the market for a stray mackerel.

Behind the register, a long faced old man with a head of wavy, buttercream white hair grinned toothily. He was dressed in bib overalls and a red flannel shirt and a fisherman’s vest covered with a myriad of eccentric pins with pithy, folksy sayings like “Bless Your Heart,” “Southern Pride,” and “Fine ‘N Dandy.” A slat-eyed cartoon goat grinned at him from one of the pins.

“You the fella owns that thunderstorm that swept through here a minute ago?” the old man asked.

Greg held up his hands sheepishly.

“I just hope he didn’t drop any rain between here and your restroom.”

There was a loud industrial flush from a back hall.

“No, no, I think he made it alright,” the old man said with a laugh.

A door rattled open and Robert came skipping out as if nothing had ever been the matter. Lisa was in tow, looking haggard.

“Where you all headed?”

“Buckingham,” Greg said, fumbling for his wallet, figuring he’d fill up while everybody else drained.

“Vacation?”

“Yeah mainly, trying to get these guys out to see the sights. Get a little bit of nature. But you know kids. Everything’s boring. They hardly look out the car window.” He slid a twenty across the counter.

“Buckingham don’t hardly seem much of a vacation spot,” said the old man.

“Well, I’m headed over to the historical society there. Got an appointment with the curator.”

“You interested in history, huh?”

“Guilty,” said Greg. “This is actually family history. I had a great great grandfather, fought in the Civil War, went missing in action somewhere around here. At least, to me. See, I know what outfit he was in, that he was around here, but don’t know what happened to him. Thought it’d be fun to do some digging.”

“Fun,” said the old man, a little dubiously, doling out angel wings on the cash register. “For you. But how about them? Ya want my advice, don’t forget the ‘family’ in family vacation. Kids need to have their interests courted. Wife too,” he added, nodding to Lisa, who was perusing the magazine rack with the same dull expression as Jainey. “Got to appeal to the whole family unit or it ain’t really a family vacation….”