Cemetery Gates Club

Uncategorized

The Cemetery Gates Club simply honors writers who’ve published 3+ stories with us.

January 2021 inductees:

Corey Farrenkopf

“A Sleepwalker’s Hands” and “Sound Never Lasts” – Campfire Macabre

“Trivia Night at the Dr. Neil Trivett Global Atmosphere Watch Observatory”

Bev Vincent

“The Hound of Brackettville” Places We Fear to Tread

“An Invisible Christmas Spectacular” Halldark Holidays

“Tupilaq”

“Tupilaq”

Uncategorized

by Bev Vincent

The wind howling outside his room at the North Star Inn reminds Earl of the desert, but it’s an Arctic blast over a hundred degrees colder than what he experienced in Iraq. He’s heard of the land of the midnight sun, of course, but to be in a place where the sun won’t set for months seems as unlikely as driving a tanker across the desert in the cradle of civilization.

Their stopover at Thule Air Base, Greenland, far above the Arctic Circle, was unscheduled, just like the stop at Ramstein. The next destination on this clandestine tour is probably Gitmo. Earl heard the beaches are nice there, not that he’ll be allowed to get off.

They’re only supposed to be refueling, but the military transport developed engine trouble. The men shackled in the back of their plane were offloaded to a shed near the runway under guard, but there isn’t anywhere for them to go. The nearest settlement of any significance is a hundred miles away.

The cold is a shock to Earl’s system. The Inn’s bed is comfortable enough, though, nicer than any he’s had for the past year. However, sleep eludes him. It’s too quiet. Four days ago, he was in the desert and he still feels like a potential target. Plus, there’s Mariel’s “Dear John” letter, which he received six months ago. He knows every word by heart but hasn’t found a way to respond.

He’s nearly asleep when a mysterious glow fills the room, expanding into a blinding white orb. From the center steps a short, stocky man wearing a caribou parka. His hood is pushed back to reveal long, scraggly hair and a drooping mustache. His complexion is dark, his features flat.

“What? Who?” Earl stammers.

The man reaches into his parka and brings out a long object. Earl is instantly back in Fallujah, where strangers are dangerous and surprises often lethal. He scrambles away from the intruder, pressing his back against the wall.

The man holds the object toward Earl. It’s about eight inches long, covered in ornate carvings. The man seems to want Earl to accept his gift, but Earl has no desire to approach an entity who materialized from a halo of light in the middle of the night.

Eventually, the man places the object at the foot of the bed and disappears into the glowing orb, which closes like a collapsing star. Earl blinks as he gropes for the light switch beside the bed. He cautiously approaches the foot of the bed. After convincing himself the object won’t explode, he picks it up and examines it under the light.

It’s a grotesque totem pole carved from a solid piece of wood. A leering bug-eyed creature is perched on top, sitting lotus style, its mouth agape to reveal enormous fangs. The figure in the middle is positively demonic. At the bottom, an exaggerated porcine mask nestles between a pair of skeletal legs. The object seems like something that should be in a museum.

The way it appeared makes Earl question his sanity. He tries to convince himself it was a dream, but the object defeats his argument. Who bequeathed it to him and why? Rather than confront the questions, he tucks it into his duffel bag. Then he collapses on his bed and stares into the darkness, trying to ignore what just happened. Eventually, he sleeps.

Instead of going down to breakfast the next morning, he uses the Inn’s WiFi to search for information. When he limits his search to Greenland relics, he discovers the object is something called a tupilaq. Inuit shamans once created them out of animal parts and supposedly chanted them to life. Because they were made from perishable materials, no original tupilaqs survive. For tourists, the Inuit now carve representations of them out of wood, bone or antlers. This one looks like the real deal to Earl, though.

If someone casts a tupilaq into the water, it will seek out and destroy their enemy. However, if the other person has stronger magic, he can turn the tupilaq back on the person who sent it. The only defence against a returned tupilaq is a public confession, and even that could be neutralized in some cases. It seems like the shaman was trying to do Earl a favor by giving him a weapon to use against an enemy.

He only has one—the author of the tattered letter in his wallet. This talisman supposedly gives him the power to defeat her. However, there isn’t any open water into which he can cast the tupliaq. He’ll have to wait until he’s Stateside.

* * *

The hurricane seems like an omen. Earl can feel it in his bones. He was in New Orleans during the lead-up to Katrina and knows it’s time to get out of Dodge.

Making sure no one is watching, he walks to the river’s edge, withdraws the tupilaq from his pocket and looks at it one last time. The evil, leering faces have haunted his dreams ever since that night in Greenland. It’s time to put it to work.

He draws it back over his shoulder and launches it into the air. It sails across the dark, turbulent waters before plunging into the river far from shore, disappearing with barely a splash. The current will carry it into the gulf and, he hopes, back in again when the tidal surge arrives. Will the tupilaq penetrate Mariel’s cold heart? Or will the demonic imps come to life and drag her down to hell with them? He didn’t much care.

He zips up his jacket and heads for the Greyhound terminal, where a bus will carry him west to Galveston.

* * *

Earl perches on one of the jetties jutting into the Gulf of Mexico. The constant roar of the tide drowns out the cars on the other side of the seawall but can’t quiet the storm raging inside his head. His thoughts form a canvas of red so loud it blinds him whenever he turns his mind’s eye inward.

Not long ago, he was in another Gulf, on the other side of the world. The oil platforms dotting the horizon remind him of what the fighting over there was really about. He drove truckloads of the stuff across hostile territory to fuel the machines of war.

Earl sees something bobbing in the water near the base of the jetty. At first, he thinks it’s a piece of driftwood. Then it rolls over, revealing a trio of grinning demonic faces. He scrambles to his feet and takes a step back. “It can’t be,” he mutters.

But here it is, hundreds of miles from where he cast it into the Mississippi. The tupilaq sought him out. Mariel’s power had overcome his.

He eases his way down the jagged rocks. Salty water spray drenches him. The tupilaq approaches and recedes, approaches and recedes. He grips the edge of a stone and reaches out, waiting for the next wave to bring the object closer. It caresses his hand then slips away. When he finally grabs it, a powerful wave tries to steal it from his grasp, but he pulls his hand back and the tupilaq comes with it.

He sits on the jetty to catch his breath, cradling the evil charm in his lap. His hand is bleeding and there’s a daub of red on one of the creatures’ fangs. Was a gash from its teeth sufficient to do him in, or are there worse torments in his future? He thinks about all the times he eluded death while shepherding his precious cargo across the desert. He remembers the letter in his wallet and can’t think of anything worse that could happen to him.

He stands on the sloping surface of the wet rocks and stares into the dark waters. He extends both arms. The wind billows around him. Leaning into the gale, he throws back his head and shouts, “I confess.”

The gale stops as quickly as it arose. Caught off balance, Earl windmills his arms and tries to solidify his footing on the slippery rocks. He regains momentary equilibrium and then slips once more. The tupilaq flies from his hand onto the jetty, where it disappears into a crevice between two rocks. Earl falls, cracking his head against a boulder.

His last sensations are of pain. He tumbles into the water, where the tide draws him away from the jetty and pulls him beneath the surface and he knows no more.

THE END

Bev Vincent is the author of The Road to the Dark Tower and the co-editor (with Stephen King) of the anthology Flight or Fright. He has published a hundred short stories and is a contributing editor with Cemetery Dance magazine. For more, see bevvincent.com.

“A Different Kind of Fish”

Uncategorized

by Rowan Hill

“Jason, I’m cold… and hungry,” my sister Katie whispered through pale lips. I shuffled across the couch and hugged her into my side, giving her arms a vigorous rub for warmth. 

“Hey, it’s an adventure, remember?”

She grinned at our parents’ spiel consistently given while on this research trip, but she couldn’t hide the loud growl of her tiny stomach. I was about to tell her a joke to take our minds off our predicament when the thick door of the Antarctica Environmental Research Station opened to the howling ice storm. My parents quickly entered and I hugged delicate Katie closer in the cold, noticing both parents’ somber mood.

Mom sat while Dad remained standing. She took a deep breath, pulling her hood off. Her eyes were worn and her lips pressed into a thin line, as if she was trying to suppress a groan or keep something in. When was the last time she’d had her meds? Did she even have any left? Before I could ask, she took another deep breath,

“It’s gonna be fine, guys,” she exhaled, while reaching for and pulling Katie onto her lap.

“What did they say?”

“They said the storm is going to be over us for another ten days.”

“Ten days!” I exclaimed, shooting to my feet in a panic, my heart racing. “But… the University only gave us provisions for the two weeks! And that finished days ago!” My father shifted his weight between his feet, looking uncomfortable.

“Jason!” Mom chided. In her arms, Katie was wide-eyed and becoming distressed, nearly hyperventilating. I turned away, mumbling ‘sorry’ and walked to the small window. The blizzard blew viscously, and I heard Mom comforting Katie.

“Hey, we’re gonna be fine. We’ve plenty of gas so we aren’t gonna freeze. You think I would let anything happen to you? Come on, you know me. I’ve got backup plans and backups for the backups.” I turned and saw Katie smiling, a tear belying her anxiety.

“We’re just gonna have to tighten our belts a little for food, huh? Your dad has been practicing his fishing and I’ve got a good feeling about that second ice hole. I’m sure I saw more fish swimming underneath the ice, I didn’t recognize them but…” 

I snorted. “Dad caught a total of one fish from the first hole. And it looked weird. Like, mutant weird. Those red spots on its belly weren’t natural. None of us could even keep it in our stomachs!” I shook my head with certainty. “The station’s over a pocket or something, there’s no water flow. There are no normal fish.”

“Jason, enough!” Mom commanded. I looked to Dad, who’d remained quiet. Classic Dad, always letting her take the lead in times of hardship. At least he looked worried this time.

***

The door opened and Dad entered with three small bowls in the crook of his arm. Katie and I were reading on the couch. Trying to take our minds off our grumbling stomachs and the incessant storm. Steam wafted from the bowls and Katie immediately perked up.

“You caught a fish!”

Dad’s lips twitched but he kept silent, handing us each one. There was a riot of color inside, the scent of sweet & sour wafting from the bowl. I used the accompanying fork and wiped away the sticky condiment, scraping it off the meat. A greyish texture vaguely like beef, but maybe a kind of tuna. I studied it warily,

“A normal fish?”

Dad nodded, “A variation of a codfish, I think.”

“No red spots?” I murmured, still inspecting the insides of the bowl.

Dad, a normally placid man, suddenly spoke with frustration and grumbled, “Its a fish is what it is, and I was very lucky to catch it, Jason. It’s hot and will save us until our ride comes in a week.”

I was surprised by his tone. Dad, a harmless environmental scientist, kept an irritated expression and took his bowl to the window to watch the raging storm.

“Where’s Mommy?” Katie muttered through her full mouth when the door opened and Mom answered.

“Here I am, sweetheart. How’s dinner? Make sure you eat while it’s hot.”

She had wrapped a full-length blanket around herself and sat next to Katie, rubbing her back and watching her petite daughter eat. Mom looked even more worn and gaunt. But not just a side effect from the cold and meager emergency rations. She was becoming sick. If I was right with the math, she maybe ran out of her medicine yesterday, today at best. I would have expected someone as prepared as she to have brought extra for the trip. But even she couldn’t have expected an extra 2-3 weeks, trapped. Eventually she looked at me, the fork still in my hand. “What’s wrong?”

I glanced at Katie, not wanting to bring up my mother’s chronic illness and make her upset again. I lied, “It’s too much sweet & sour.”

Mom looked hurt. “I know, the fish looked… stringy… when your father pulled it out of the ice, and we need to eat, so I drowned it in condiments. Tomorrow I’ll make it honey mustard, okay? But… I need you to get past the taste, okay?”

My stomach, not fed since yesterday’s last emergency SPAM, agreed and I began to eat the tough, grey meat. It had little taste beyond the tangy sauce. She watched us and I noticed she hadn’t eaten.

“Did you get any?”

She looked up from Katie with a weary smile. “I already ate, darling. And we will keep some of the scraps for bait. We’ll catch another soon.” She began to lovingly stroke Katie’s hair. “See, I told you two, everything’s going to be fine. Plenty of fish in the ocean. Only another seven days. They’re on standby in case the storm suddenly breaks, so who knows!?” She tried to exclaim energetically but failed. I wondered if she had really eaten or had just given her share to Katie, the miracle IVF daughter she would do anything for. Katie finished her bowl and leaned across her lap, while Mom winced through her smile.

***

“Is this the same kind of fish? The codfish?” I questioned, taking the bowl from Dad. He nodded as he sat. Today, the stringy fish was swathed in honey mustard. It wasn’t much but enough to keep starvation away and I did love honey mustard.

“Guys, Mom isn’t feeling well. I’ve rugged her up in bed. We’re just going to let her sleep, okay?”

“What’s wrong?” I mumbled with a mouth full of the sweet, drenched food.

“Well… she had a migraine for a while and she’s just drained.”

My brow furrowed as I started to ask, “She has run out of…”

“Jason!” Dad cut me off with a knowing look, confirming my suspicions.  

Katie didn’t notice our exchange, “Did Mommy get dinner?”

He didn’t reply, merely nodded and stood to return to the window and the storm holding us hostage.

After dinner, I knocked on the bedroom door. There was no response, so I opened it, finding Mom in bed. Her eyes were closed with a pained expression on her creased forehead. I shut the door to the freezing hallway quietly behind me.

She shifted at the noise and in the weak fluorescent light, I could make out a sheen of sweat glistening on her brow. On the table were several neon-orange pill bottles, still half-full. I sat on the side of her cot and felt her forehead. She had a fever. I came out of my lean, accidentally putting weight on her legs and she flinched, groaning in her sleep.

I frowned, remembering the wince through her smile, and I stared at the blanket covering her legs. With a gentle hand, I lifted it to peek underneath, only to be met with a layer of white gauze. Confused, I tossed the blanket away, not caring about the cold or her comfort.

My mother’s bare thighs and calves were swathed in white wrappings and individual adhesive pads. Deep, saturated, red spots bleeding through in multiple places. My mouth gaped at the unexpected gore and moist wounds on my mother’s limbs and I gently reached out to touch them.

The wounds weren’t deep, but wide and long. Like she had road rash, or had been cut with something even…

Like she had been filleted.

The random thought shifted my stomach, gurgling its contents of the mysterious ‘fish’ I’d just devoured.

“I’m gonna throw up,” I whispered.

“Don’t you dare,” a harsh and angry voice retorted. I looked up to find her staring at me sternly. She pushed herself up on her elbows, “We’re still nearly a week away from rescue. That’s enough to do serious damage to Katie at her age without food. Understand?” I stayed silent, feeling my mouth salivate at the word ‘food’ but then gagging at the thought.

She slapped my face, “Stop it and grow up.” Nausea subsided with the pain and I stood, backing away from my sacrificial mother. I headed toward the door in a daze.

***

Katie’s stomach loudly rumbled as she hugged it, “How many more days?”

“Four maybe,” I muttered.

The door opened and Dad came in with the steaming bowls. I now understood his permanent grim expression. As he handed us our meal, I saw his dirty, brown fingernails. Blood.

The grey meat was swathed again in a thick sauce, all texture and density hidden. But my mother’s flesh was all I saw and had to push the bowl away, murmuring that I wasn’t hungry.

My father had a dripping fork-full raised to his mouth when we locked eyes. I was disgusted watching him chew. Always letting Mom lead. Whatever she thought was best. He suddenly looked down in shame, soon pushing his own bowl away.

The door suddenly opened and Mom entered, visibly limping, a fake smile plastered on her face. She sat next to Katie and rubbed her back lovingly. Together we three watched young Katie, halfway through her bowl of grey meat. She had sauce around her lips, and they smacked together loudly as she still hadn’t learned to chew with her mouth closed.

I spotted a grey thread of flesh stuck between her small teeth and had to look away, still listening to the sounds of her devouring her dinner. When she finished, she asked me, “Can I have yours?”

THE END

Rowan Hill is a dual national writer currently living in Southern Italy. She enjoys writing over a range of genres, but Horror by far is her favorite. Lately, she has found herself writing female villains and hopes to create a truly chilling one in the near future. She tries to use her many experiences living in many places in her writing and is set to have her first publications with Kandisha Press and Curious Blue Press in the upcoming months. She can be found on Twitter @writerrowanhill.

“The Lights”

Uncategorized

by Greg Sisco

Whatever woke Henry didn’t do it violently. He roused instantly from a deep sleep and became fully alert, but somehow it happened comfortably, like his subconscious bringing him breakfast in bed.

He’d never slept as well as he did on the cruise. Something about the subtle rocking, like a baby in its cradle, even though the mattress seemed too firm when he first lay on it, he’d never been so engulfed by sleep as he was here.

But it was the middle of the night, and for some reason he was awake.

He rolled over to put an arm around Mia and found she wasn’t there. The mattress was still warm, like she’d gotten up only a moment ago. Maybe she’d shut the bathroom door? Maybe the sound of it was what woke him? But then there would have been light spilling through the crack under the door, and there wasn’t. The stateroom was dark. Dark except for an ominous green that spilled in through the window.

“Mia?” he called. Then louder, “Mia, you okay?”

She didn’t answer. He got out of bed and flipped on the bathroom light. She wasn’t here. He was alone in the stateroom.

So she was restless and went for a walk around the ship. You’d never seen stars like you saw out here. She probably went out to look at them. Or whatever that green glow is. That ominous…green…

The voice came back to him, the strange old man at the bar, the one who said he’d done the round-the-world cruise every year since he was forty.

“Don’t you two go leaving your room tonight. The Southern Lights play tricks. Every year when we pass through these waters there’s somebody goes to sleep in their bed and the next morning we can’t find ‘em. Every year we search until there’s nowhere left to search and we say maybe they went out alone, leaned a little too far out for a look. Somebody says the sea took ‘em, but we old timers know better. It’s not the sea. It’s the lights take ‘em.”

A shiver shot through him and an instant later he scolded himself. Spook stories. Creepy legends getting into his head in his semi-awake state. Even if he felt a little more than semi-awake. Even if he felt as awake as he ever did. He didn’t believe a word of that stuff.

Not really.

But there was still an urgency to it as he dressed and ran out.

“Mia!” he called, walking through halls, a little louder than maybe he should have. Loud enough he was probably waking passengers in the rooms around him, still trying to convince himself he wasn’t panicking.

He came out of the far end of the hall onto the deck in a half-sprint, but the lights stopped him.

It was a spiral in the sky. A vast, expansive cluster of tendrils shining down like it meant to swallow the Earth. It shook him, scared him, at once made him feel menaced and taken in by its beauty. He wondered if he’d ever felt awe before, or if it was only a feeling he knew about from books. If he hadn’t, he sure knew it instantly when he felt it.

Many nights you could hardly see a thing over the rail, maybe a hint of moonlight reflecting off the water, but tonight you could see each glacier in the distance as clear as day. Every snow and ice covered protrusion standing out of the sea was bathed, along with the sea itself, in the same haunting glow as the sky.

He looked right, to the ship’s bow, to where the glow stretched as far as the eye could see, then he followed it left, all the way to the stern, where…

“Mia?” he called to the silhouette at the stern. “Mia!”

He ran. This time he gave up trying to convince himself he wasn’t frantic. He was. The figure at the stern was standing not just on the first rail but the second, and there were only three. Her shins were pressed against the top rail and her hands were out at her sides, maybe making believe she was flying. But he could see it. He could envision her leaning forward, letting her feet slip off the rail, and disappearing over the side, gone in an instant, slipping beneath the icy waves below.

He got to her before it could happen. Wrapping both arms around her waist, he ripped her from the rails and put her on her feet, nearly throwing her to the deck with the force he used.

“What are you thinking?!” he screamed. “You could have died, Mia! If you slipped, you would have died!”

She didn’t seem to hear him. Still wearing just the silk gown she slept in, having not even bothered to put on shoes for the subzero temperatures, her head was tilted to the sky, mouth open, turned up at the corners in a smile.

“Mia?” he asked, more softly, trying to make his heart slow down. “Mia, did you hear me?”

“It’s beautiful,” she whispered, a tear rolling out of one eye and freezing on her cheek. “Have you seen how beautiful it is?”

“I know,” he said, taking off his coat to drape it around her shoulders. “Come on, you can’t be out here like this.”

She put a hand on his cheek, ice cold, even colder than he would have expected, and she finally looked him in the eye.

“Kiss me, Henry.”

A part of him was still furious and a part concerned for how she was acting, but he obliged her. It was meant to be a quick kiss to placate her, after which he could put an arm around her and take her back to the room, but she wrapped both arms around his neck and pulled him into her, pressing her mouth to his with a passion he hadn’t felt in years, like she was trying to steal every breath from his lungs. She ran one ice cold hand up the back of his neck, fingers slipping through his hair, and with the other she unbuttoned and unzipped his pants.

“Whoa, whoa,” he said, pulling away to button them again. “I don’t think so.”

“Make love to me,” she said, taking a step toward the rail.

“Mia…”

She climbed the rail and sat atop it, her back to the green, glowing ocean, pulling up the hem of her gown with both hands, keeping neither on the rail.

“Make love to me here, under the lights.”

He reached out to grab her and she snatched his wrists in both hands with a strength that wasn’t her own. She pulled him into her and her eyes glowed with the same green as the lights. The same green that bathed the ocean and the sky, coming from above and below at once.

“It’s not the sea. It’s the lights that take ‘em.”

She leaned back, her hands still latched to his wrists, and pulled him with her. Through the freezing air they fell, holding each other, the green from the sky reflecting from the water, getting brighter as they got closer, until the green of both her eyes and the lights engulfed them.

The water crashed over his body and the green went black.

When he surfaced, there were no lights. The sky was full of stars and any glaciers in the distance were invisible in the dark of night. The ship was leaving him behind and the space between it and himself was growing fast. And he was alone.

“Mia?” he tried to call out, but his shocked and freezing body wouldn’t let him speak above a whisper. “Mia, where are you? Mia?”

Mia awoke in her stateroom as well-rested as she’d ever been. She couldn’t remember having slept as well in her life as she did on the cruise ship. Henry had suggested it was the way sea rocked them like a baby in a cradle. She supposed he was right.

She looked at the clock. Almost noon. Wow. Maybe one too many drinks last night.

She rolled over. Henry wasn’t next to her. Her first thought was the bathroom or the shower, but no. He didn’t seem to be here.

She shivered for a second, remembering the old man.

“It’s not the sea. It’s the lights that take ‘em.”

She shook away the thought. He’d gone out and let her sleep. Surely. She’d take a shower, get dressed, go down to the breakfast nook, and she’d find him. There, or at the gym, or playing shuffleboard.

He’d be there though. He’d be somewhere. Lights don’t take people away.

End

Greg Sisco is a novelist, screenwriter, and film director. His short fiction has appeared in anthologies such as Worst Laid Plans, Halldark Holidays, and Nox Pareidolia. Perpetually restless and habitually nomadic, he has lived in four countries and is most at home in the movie theater. A newly expanded edition of his novel “In Nightmares We’re Alone” is coming March 15 from Off Limits Press.

“In the Hands of An Angry God”

Uncategorized

by Mark Allan Gunnells

Kevin trudged from the barn back to the small cabin. The flickering firelight in the window acted as a beacon, calling him home. The snow came up to his waist so he basically had to tunnel his way through, making the relatively short journey from barn to cabin take so much longer. During the worst blizzards, the snow would freeze so solidly that he could walk on top of the crust without ever breaking through. Of course, visibility was so bad that he dared not go out when the snow was actively falling. If tunneling through the snow was the price he had to pay for a clear sky, he was willing to pay it.

As he neared the front door and the relative warmth of inside, he glanced uneasily at the sky. Still clear. It had been clear for nearly a week now. The longest streak without snow for longer than he could remember.

Not that good weather solved all his problems.

When he finally reached the cabin, he climbed the steps onto the porch, his legs feeling numb from cold. He opened the door just a crack, enough to slip his emaciated frame through, and then hurried inside and slammed the door behind him, not wanting any more heat to escape the house than necessary.

The temperature inside was cold but not frigid; at least he couldn’t see his breath puffing out in front of him. Across the one room of the cabin, his wife Julia huddled in front of the fireplace, small flames licking up in the hearth. She held herself, her worn wool shawl pulled tight around her shoulders.

She looked at Kevin and the basket in his hands. “Where’s the bucket?”

“I’m sorry, there will be no more milk. And these,” he said, holding up the basket, “will be the last of the eggs as well.”

“The cow and all the chickens?”

“I’m afraid so,” he said, setting the basket with the three measly eggs on the floor. “I’m surprised they lasted this long. I haven’t been able to properly repair the barn, and with all the cracks and holes in the wood, the cold was too much for the poor animals.”

Julia closed her eyes and released a shuddering breath. “It’s okay. We’ll be okay. We can melt snow for water, and there is plenty enough of that. For food, we have the chickens and the cows. If they can’t provide for us one way, they can provide for us another.”

Kevin was struck anew by his wife’s unfailing ability to look on the bright side. Once that optimism inspired a surge of love in him, but now he only felt annoyance. Optimism in the face of harsh reality was not admirable; it was delusional.

“I fear we will soon join the cow and chickens,” he said. “When the next quake and blizzard come – ”

“We haven’t experienced that in days, love. Perhaps that ordeal is finally over.”

 “We’ve thought that before, remember?”

“Yes, but we’ve never gone this long without the earth shaking and the snow swirling down. I believe God may have finally answered our prayers.”

Kevin didn’t bother to mention he hadn’t prayed in nearly a year. Instead, he said, “Even if the quakes and blizzards have stopped, it’s still freezing out there and we are nearly out of fuel for the fire.”

They both looked around at the empty inside of the cabin. They had broken up almost all the furniture to feed the fire. The table and chairs, the bedframe, the bookcases. Eventually even the books had become food for the flames. All that remained were two footstools, but they would provide little substance for the hungry heat.

“The barn!” Julia said suddenly, brightening. Her shawl slipped, revealing her thin neck and painfully exposed collarbones. “Since we no longer need it to house the animals, we can chop it up. Plenty of wood there.”

“Much of that wood is saturated by the snow.”

“So we start right away and start bringing it in to dry out. Perfect solution. See, you should never doubt God. He always provides.”

“Stop saying that!” Kevin screamed and kicked out at the basket. One of the eggs tumbled over the side and cracked against the floor, yellow yoke oozing out. Not that it mattered. One egg wouldn’t save them. Nothing could save them, only delay the inevitable.

Julia pulled the shawl tighter around herself, her expression setting stern like stone. “Do not blaspheme in front of me again. I won’t hear it.”

“The God you keep praying to for salvation, He is the one we need saving from. You believe He controls all that happens in this godforsaken arctic world, don’t you?”

She looked away from her husband, back toward the fire. Kevin crossed the floor in long strides, grabbed Julia by the shoulders and spun her around. “Answer me, woman! Do you believe God controls all that happens in this world?”

“Y-yes,” she stammered. “Of course.”

“Then He is responsible for the quakes and blizzards; He is responsible for the snow never melting; He is responsible for the death of our animals. Every single miserable thing that has happened, He is the one who has caused it. The Master of Suffering and Despair. If He offers up temporary but inadequate solutions, it seems only to prolong our pain for His own mysterious and perverse pleasure.”

Julia broke free and covered her ears, shaking her head. “You mustn’t say such things.”

“Why not? They are true statements. If God really wanted to help us, He would bring out the sun. Melt the snow. End this endless winter. Allow us to grow crops, properly tend animals, find others and make a community. Instead he keeps us prisoners in this icy hell, desperate and barely surviving.”

Julia looked as if she were about to protest further but then the ground began to shake. Julia cried out in surprise, but Kevin could not claim any surprise himself. Yes, it had been nearly a week and he had dared to hope, but he had always known deep down that God wasn’t done torturing them.

The world seemed to turn topsy-turvy, the entire world shaking and rumbling. The basket skittered across the floor and into the fire, destroying the remaining two eggs. Kevin and his wife both fell to the floor, clinging to one another.

When the quaking finally ceased, Kevin got unsteadily to his feet and stumbled to the window. Snow fell so heavily it was like a thick blanket, making it impossible even to see the barn. Always the same, the quake followed by the blizzard.

“This is your fault,” Julia hissed, still on her hands and knees. “God heard what you said, and this is His punishment.”

Kevin continued to stare out the window. “Blame me if you will, but I know who is truly to blame.”

Suddenly he bolted to the front door, tearing it open and running out into the blizzard, dropping to his knees in the cold snow. He tilted his head back so that the deluge of freezing flakes hit him in the face. “Damn you!” he screamed at the sky. “Goddamn you God!”

***

Eddie stared into the rounded plastic globe, watching the little white flakes swirl around, almost obscuring the tiny cabin and barn figurines inside.

His mother walked into the room and smiled. “Oh, I see you finally found your snow globe. Where was it?”

The six year old smiled up at his mother. “Under my bed.”

“Well, it’s a wonder you can locate anything in this pigsty you call a bedroom. Anyway, I’m glad you found it. I know how much you love it.” Eddie looked back at the snow globe, and as the white flakes began to settle, he gave it another vigorous shake.

End

Mark Allan Gunnells loves to tell stories. He has since he was a kid, penning one-page tales that were Twilight Zone knockoffs. He likes to think he has gotten a little better since then. He loves reader feedback, and above all he loves telling stories. He lives in Greer, SC, with his husband Craig A. Metcalf.

Sometimes the Path Chooses You

Uncategorized

by Gabino Iglesias

I was stoked when Cemetery Gates Media offered me a bit of space to talk about publishing. You see, writing, editing, and publishing are things I’m passionate about. They’re also what I do for a living. Whether it’s writing, editing someone else’s work, reviewing books, or teaching others about those things, I’m always doing something related to books, so I’m perennially ready to have a conversation about the realities of writing and publishing. In this space, I want to explore some of the paths to publication. For starters, you need to understand this: sometimes you choose your path, and sometimes the path chooses you.

            If you’re like me, you started out thinking getting an agent and selling your novel to a big publisher with offices in New York was the only way to get your work out there. Hopefully, learning about publishing has shown you there are a plethora of paths to publication. For now, we’re going to put agents, big publishers, and independent publishers of all sizes to the side and talk about self-publishing for a bit.

            Self-publishing is a lot of things. It’s also not some things you might think it is. Now, you can go online and find thousands of articles discussing some of the best reasons for self-publishing (i.e. higher royalties, less waiting, more creative control, etc.). However, I think an honest discussion about self-publishing needs to start somewhere else, so we’re going to talk about why you shouldn’t self-publish. No, I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it; I’m saying you should pursue that path for the right reasons, and in order to know what those right reasons are, you need to understand what things shouldn’t drive you to that path. Yeah, let’s get honest and talk about three things that shouldn’t be reasons for self-publishing.

            The first thing on this list is anger. I know that sounds weird, but I’ve heard from plenty of writers who turn to self-publishing because they’re angry after a rejection or because they’ve been querying agents for ten weeks or ten months without success. Listen, this gig is all about rejection. You will get turned down, I assure you. You will get turned down all the time. You will collect rejections, so consider them an invitation to submit elsewhere. However, getting turned down doesn’t mean you should turn to self-publishing just because you’re angry and frustrated. Be patient. Keep submitting. Keep querying if that’s what you want to do with your career. If your driving thought is “I’m going to get this out into the world myself and show them!” then self-publishing is not what you need. Take a break and try again.

            The second thing is the idea that self-publishing will be easier. Yes, self-publishing takes out the agent, dealing with contracts, waiting around for a publishers to give you a date, and a bunch of other little things. That said, it won’t be easier. Taking on self-publishing means you’re putting yourself in charge of getting a professional editor to look at your work or finding someone to trade edits with, finding and paying a cover artist, and taking care of the book’s layout. Then, you also have to take care of publicity and marketing unless you have a huge budget and can hire someone else to do that. Self-publishing also means that there’s a huge chance you won’t have galleys ready months in advance, so you won’t be able to get as many reviews as you want. Oh, and in case you needed an extra dose of honesty, I can tell you that huge venues don’t review self-published books. Yeah, not going to be easier at all. Some writers think the solution to this is to turn to vanity presses who will do all this for them. Don’t. Pardon my French, but vanity presses are predatory assholes that will take a lot of your money and do absolutely nothing for your book or your career. Stay as far from them as possible.

            The last thing on this short list is creative control. I know this one is problematic, so allow me to explain. When I say don’t turn to self-publishing because you want to retain absolute creative control, what I’m saying is this: you should always have creative control and will do so if you work with the right people, but self-publishing because you want to skip the editing process and refuse to accept constructive criticism is a mistake. If you start working with an editor who tells you to make an LGBTQ+ character straight to appeal to more readers, politely tell them to fuck off. That’s absolute creative control. If you self-publish because you know an editor is going to point out weaknesses in your work and force you to work on it and make it better, you’re just lazy. Hey, I told you we were going to get honest, so if that ruffles your feathers, take a deep and think about your reasons for a while.

            Maybe none of this applies to you. Maybe all of them apply to you. If any of them made you think or reconsider, my work here is done. Next time, we’ll discuss four reasons why self-publishing might just be the perfect path for you. Oh, and this is all about honesty, so we might talk a little about stigma…

We’re done here. Go write.

Dabbler. Hobbyist. Hobby-Pro. Pro.

Uncategorized

Joe Sullivan, An Editor’s Note

When I received my first guitar for Christmas in the mid-90s, the internet was just beginning to accumulate useful information for hobbyists. I could find tablature for most of my favorite Nirvana or Led Zeppelin songs, and even for some Black Flag anthems. However, I didn’t know how to properly tune my guitar, so I made approximations at what a tuned guitar might sound like, and arrived at a suitable quasi open tuning. Which eventually made it possible for me to emulate my favorite songs, in the crudest way imaginable.

I didn’t begin to speak the language of guitar players until I knew how to tune my guitar and how to recognize a dozen or so basic chords. A guitar class in high school helped this process along. Eventually, with enough practice I was able to tune my guitar to–and play chords and notes along with–other guitar players. We properly spoke the same language, however rudimentary it might have been.

By senior year my guitar teacher was also my music theory teacher and I was able to properly read and write music for multiple instruments. He was an extraordinary guitar player, and made a steady second income with a jazz band that played every weekend. When I came up short on a song I had written in my spare time, and brushed off his criticism along the lines of ‘Well, it’s really just a hobby, so no biggie if it sucks,’ he taught me a simple lesson about the difference in dedication and work ethic between a hobbyist and a pro. There is no proper difference between a hobbyist and a pro. They speak the same language. There was something I misunderstood about the language, and that I could improve the song, or I could toss the piece, but I shouldn’t be under the impression that I was fluent in the language and technique of ‘hobbyist musicians’ aka musicians.

In high school I was also interested in Greek philosophy. I figured I’d read enough Plato that I could tackle any of the problems of philosophy through the Socratic method. I was quickly disabused of this notion in my first few philosophy classes in college. In college you run into many philosophic dabblers. My best friend at the time wanted me to read his paper on ethics. He was an anthropology student, so he had a vague notion of particularism and really wanted to show the strength of cultural relativism when tasked with the questions that plagued 21st Century America. I plainly told him that we didn’t speak the same language and handed him a copy of G.E. Moore’s Principia Ethica. He plainly told me that traditions don’t matter; that anyone could philosophize.

A few years later I was in my early 20s and still hadn’t learned the most basic of lessons. I was writing free form poetry without any notion of the traditions of poetry. I didn’t know what an iamb was at this point, and anyone who knew what a rondeau was would read the first two lines of something I’d written and walk away wide-eyed. No one wrote form poetry in 2003, so why would I bother studying it? But no one was reading what I’d written, so I studied the traditions, practiced forms, and eventually published poems within the contemporary aesthetic.

Maybe you’re still reading this because you’re a hobbyist/hobby-pro level author, and are curious if I’m going to make a point about writing, or publishing, because I’m an editor and we pay decent rates. You understand how easy it is to dismiss an acquaintance who sends you a piece with terrible grammar, no notion of the basic elements that constitute a story. My problem is that most pieces I receive are competent-to-excellent stories. We speak the same language.

I’m a hobbyist publisher looking to put out professional stories. I’d like to encourage writers on their path toward their first publication or their 50th. I love sci-fi, but don’t send me a story that you wrote for Analog that happens to have creepy elements because you’ll get a credit toward SFWA eligibility. Unnerving Magazine, Silver Shamrock, Vastarien, PseudoPod, NoSleep, Nightmare Mag are brands with their own sublanguages. If you truly want to level up from competent hobbyist to hobby-pro you have to write for each unique brand and each unique call. Yes, it’s time-intensive. I have a day job, too.

New Voices in Horror with Cameron Ulam

Uncategorized

Joe Sullivan: When did you begin writing horror and what compelled you to send out your first submission in the genre? 

Cameron Ulam: The first horror piece I ever wrote as an adult was also my first audio publication, which I cranked out in 2018. I wrote in middle school and sporadically (and a little bit secretly) through high school, but I found that my poor little creative brain became too overwhelmed to dabble in the arts while I was finishing up graduate school. I found writing again in 2018, when I was in a better space in life and more confident in myself as human. Writing for me has always been about confidence. I never shared my writing with anyone until adulthood. In middle school I was in on a competitive “Power of the Pen” writing team, which forced me to share my work with others, and I remember that being a time of growth for me. I wrote some short horror stories back then, and I read it feverishly, but I always kept my writing very private. Somehow, I lost my confidence for the creative for a few years. Then, all at once, I picked it back up…writing, painting, etc. It was all timing. I’ve never understood the concept of the starving artist…if I’m not in a calm, positive space, my writing and my art suffers. Horror has always been what I’ve wanted to write. It’s the genre I consumed and the genre I always hoped to one day contribute to. I just finally found the guts. And the proper headspace. That’s what compelled me.

You had your first publications in audio horror, I believe “Raking Fingers” for Creepy Podcast in 2019 was one of the first times anyone would’ve heard your name as a writer in the genre. Were you first attracted to audio horror, and specifically creepypasta? Or was it just one of the avenues you were exploring, and the popular audio format just happened to hit first?  

Audio horror is still something I indulge in almost daily as a listener. I adore the Creepy and NoSleep podcasts. My first job out of college had an hour-long commute, so horror fiction podcasts were just another way to absorb my daily dose of the creeps. It was never really about the “creepypasta” culture to me. I have tried to become a reddit person over the years, but just can’t get there. I am still very old-fashioned in that, if I can afford to buy a physical book, I will buy it. I own a kindle, but only use it as a last resort. I like to hold writing in my hands…it’s the whole tangible experience I need. I wreck my books and will dog-ear and leave them on a rainy porch before picking them back up to dive in. If you ever borrow a book from me, expect a little duct-tape on the cover. I think that’s ok, though I know some would chastise me for it. Personally, if I ever saw my novel tattered on someone’s coffee table, I would see the wear and tear as a sign of love. I’m obsessed with overall book presentation as a whole…cover art is important to me, and I would be lying if I said I hadn’t bought a book in the past based purely on visual intrigue. Shallow, I know. In short, I love audio horror, but print novels are where it’s at for me.     

I first heard your name attached to the Silver Shamrock anthology Midnight in the Pentagram, which already had a lineup of killers, so I did what editors often do, and searched my unread slush for your name and found your submission “Propagate”. What wasn’t surprising, was an editor from Eerie River Publishing had already scooped up your story “Propagate”—which goes to show, the endorsement of Ken Cain and Ken McKinley means a whole lot in our little community—at least it does for me. What was it like getting your first few writing credits? Did it embolden you to brand yourself as a horror writer?

Ah! I remember that email from you…I felt terrible I couldn’t contribute “Propagate.” But I was glad to still work my way into Places We Fear to Tread… I appreciate you motivating me to write another story for that collection. I think you and Ken McKinley from Silver Shamrock have both emboldened some drive in me…some confidence in something I always wanted to take a chance on but never had the gall. It feels good to put yourself out there and have established names in the community respond positively to your writing, so yes, I would say writing credits gave me the confidence to walk onward. Getting those credits was like stepping into another universe, one I didn’t know could exist for myself. It was very visceral…I believe my hands were shaking when I opened the email to my first acceptance. Silver Shamrock and Cemetery Gates were two publishers who really gave me the confidence to step forward into the writing community. And yes, I owe Kenneth Cain all the thanks in the world for his help with my contribution to Midnight in the Pentagram. I think I grew a years-worth of writing skill while engaging in the editing back-and-forth with Kenneth—so much insight! Other authors published by Silver Shamrock, Cemetery Gates, and Cemetery Dance have also reached out to compliment my work this year, so those moments have given me drive—and if I’m being completely honest—have left me a bit glassy-eyed with gratitude. The horror community has been nothing but welcoming and supportive to me in 2020—I want to do right by them and keep creating. As for branding myself as a horror author, it just felt natural. As soon as I began writing, that is what I wanted to write. If in the future I feel the desire to write outside of the genre, then I will without hesitation. So far, however, horror is the road I see on the map.

You’ve posted on social media about working on a novel manuscript. What themes are you exploring with it?

My new novel explores themes of toxic dependency and trauma, and the blackened cesspool we gather around (often in company) when we decide to give ourselves over to that trauma. The book explores the way humanity enables itself…the way our past festers, sporing like mold and spreading like plague to the people we form relationships with. The cyclical nature of trauma is horrific in that it always seems to rise up again after decades of repression—a cancer chemo never fully douses. My novel proposes that when we sacrifice pieces of ourselves to trauma, we create space for dark things to take residence. A void is always begging to be filled, and if we don’t take charge of our own lives, something evil might steal the reins. I don’t want to give too much away about the plot quite yet, but I hope as I get closer to finishing, I can start releasing some teasers on social media. I think readers are going to enjoy the journey through the swamp of my new novel…there’s a lot of darkness waiting to bubble up.

An author’s first book is usually the end of a major chapter in their nascent writing career. It identifies their brand to a wider audience, and often gives them their first set of readers that will follow them throughout their career. Ideally, what types of books do you hope to put out in the 2020s? Do you have writing plans outside of—or adjacent to—the horror genre?

When I write horror, I like to flex my world-building muscle by giving the physical setting a heartbeat. I want the space in which the book begins to breathe just as audibly as the living characters that walk through it. The setting needs to have blood running through its veins—the grass needs to scream along with the hunted protagonist. That is important in the stories I tell. It may sound childish, but I partly want my books to mirror emotions I felt when reading some of my favorite adolescent gems, such Goosebump’s The Werewolf of Fever Swamp or The Horror at Camp Jellyjam. Read those books as an adult and you will find that, as simple as the vocabulary on the page may seem to your adult repertoire, the worlds breath—they growl—they hiss. I adore this sentiment and hope to modify and inject it into my own adult horror. I want you to grin with delight while reading my stories…I want my horror to be delicious, so that you remain just as enraptured with the torture as you are simultaneously nervous to turn another page too close to bedtime. I want to make you feel like a kid again—not in a way that feels amateur—but in a way that captures that clandestine wonder that we all felt while reading horror as children. I think it’s important we never lose that—adult life is boring enough.

Cameron’s website and social media pages:

Website: https://www.cameronulam.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ulamwrites

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ulam_writes/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ulam_writes

“Trivia Night at the Dr. Neil Trivett Global Atmosphere Watch Observatory”

Uncategorized

by Corey Farrenkopf

The first knock came as Master cpl. Keith asked question fifteen.

Which Native People are credited as the source of the Wendigo myth? 

It was Trivia night at the Dr. Neil Trivett Global Atmosphere Watch Observatory in Alert, Canada. Or, more accurately, it was trivia night at the Canadian Forces station just down the road from the Dr. Neil Trivett Global Atmosphere Watch Observatory. The guys liked the other name better, the air of intellect it added, so it stuck. Twelve men and two women sat in the room, some from the weather observatory, the rest from the army installation, all trying to whittle away another night in the northernmost settlement on the continent.

The sun hadn’t risen in a month. The outpost’s lights illuminated a sea of snow mounding up against the low rectangular living quarters and the hangar. Buildup caused the roof to groan, letting the gathering know it was time to get out the shovels. Earlier that day, a polar bear had been spotted a distance from the outpost, but it never wandered near, never requiring station warrant officer Bryson to go out with his shotgun and scare it off before it got into the trash.

When the knock resounded, all eyes moved to the door on the far wall.

Everyone stationed at the outpost was accounted for.

No one liked to miss trivia night. It was the highlight of the week. Keith could see his comrades going through the mental math, doing a headcount, running rosters over their tongue, searching for a missing name which no one found. 

“Probably the wind,” Ellery, the programs manager from the weather station, said.

“Or maybe it’s that polar bear come back for round two,” the warrant officer replied.

A nervous laugh rounded the group.

“I’d say it’s the wind,” Keith said. “But let’s quit stalling. You know we do this on a timer.”

Everyone nodded in agreement.

“Ok, so question sixteen,” Keith began as the men and women lifted their pens. “The oldest shark in the sea goes by many names and can be found in the waters not too far from here. List one of its several names.”

There was the sound of writing, scribbling, tapping at unknown answers.

Then there was another knock, this time louder, more insistent.

The scribbling stopped.

There was no way it was the wind. Polar bears don’t knock.

“Who’s going to look?” Ellery asked.

She, like the rest of the group, knew the security cameras had been down, something in the wiring. No one seemed too concerned about it. There was very little crime so far from civilization. An electrician was being flown out in another week, a time frame most hadn’t minded until the third knock shivered through the thick metal frame.

“I believe that falls under the jurisdiction of the warrants officer,” Keith said, looking at Bryson.

“I don’t think that’s in my job description,” Bryson replied.

“What? You didn’t watch The Thing again, did you? Or 30 Days of Night? I told them they need to take those horror movies off the evening rotation,” Keith said, shaking his head.

The station had a cache of over five thousand movies that played across several channels on a loop. They played comedies and period pieces and more horror than Keith thought wise for an outpost five-hundred miles from the nearest town.

“No, I didn’t watch it again,” Bryson said, averting his eyes.

Everyone knew Bryson was a horror junkie. He was the only one to ever get Keith’s spooky trivia. Which actor played Freddy Krueger in Nightmare on Elms Street? Which serial killer was Leatherface based on in Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

Everyone else stuck to Pixar movies or the latest superhero trilogy.

“I’m just saying, we’re all in here. No one’s showing up for another week. There can’t be someone knocking at the door. There’s no way,” Bryson said.

“But we all hear it,” Ellery said.

All eyes were on Bryson. Everyone knew he was the guy who was supposed to handle the basic goings on at the outpost.

“Could be ice breaking,” Bryson said.

“Definitely not ice breaking,” Keith replied, hand drifting to the pistol holstered at his hip, reassuring himself it was there.

The knock came again.

“Why doesn’t the new guy get it,” Bryson said, looking at the Second Lieutenant who’d arrived earlier that month.

“You can’t do that to the kid. This one’s on you,” Keith said.

“Fucking hell, I’m not doing it,” Bryson said. “This is ridiculous. Something’s out there. We know that. No one shows up unannounced. We’ve seen the movies. It’s going to be one of those snow zombies, or a werewolf, or some other freak that’s going to eat every one of us until all the camera has left is a long shot of smoke rising from our barracks and a dog running off into the snow.”

“You did watch The Thing again,” Keith said, leveling a finger at Bryson.

“Doesn’t matter. There’s truth in fiction. I say loser opens the door,” Bryson said.

“Loser of what?” Ellery asked.

“Trivia night,” Bryson replied, as if it was an obvious answer.

The next knock was so loud it shifted a swath of snow from the roof. It pounded down on the frozen ground beside the building’s entrance.

“Sounds fair to me,” Keith agreed.

“You’re only saying that because you can’t lose,” Ellery said.

“Hey, don’t shoot the host,” Keith replied.

The doorknob started to rattle, the metal mechanism shifting back and forth, grinding against itself. The lock held. Another knock shivered through the barrier. it wasn’t frantic or concerned like someone trapped out in the snow should be. It was calm.

“So question seventeen…” Keith continued as the knocking persisted, each blow punctuating his subsequent questions, keeping a steady pace as if whatever was on the other side knew the game was winding down, that soon someone who didn’t know who the voice actor of Maui in Moana was? was going to answer, to find out who or what had been left waiting out in the snow.

End

Corey Farrenkopf lives on Cape Cod with his wife, Gabrielle, and works as a librarian. He is the fiction editor for The Cape Cod Poetry Review. His work has been published in or is forthcoming from The Southwest Review, Catapult, Tiny Nightmares, Flash Fiction Online, Bourbon Penn, Campfire Macabre, Wigleaf, and elsewhere. To learn more, follow him on twitter @CoreyFarrenkopf or on the web at CoreyFarrenkopf.com

Halldark Holidays

Uncategorized

The holidays are a time for romance, sentimental longing for a simpler time…and monsters! Editor Gabino Iglesias brings you 22 stories from the hearts and absolutely twisted minds of some of horror’s finest. Right from the get-go this book slays. Greg Sisco’s “The Morbs” is like “The Lottery”, but more fucked-up. Brian Keene delivers as always with “The Hatching” and Gabino swears you might shed a tear by the time you reach Todd Robinson’s “Mother and Child”. Clara Madrigano, Cynthia Pelayo, Bev Vincent, Alan Baxter, Gina Ranalli, Kelly J. Ford, Mark Allan Gunnells are absolute killers in the genre. Check out the complete TOC below!

The eBook for Halldark Holidays is now live and you can purchase it here!

The paperback version of Halldark Holidays is available here!

Table of Contents

“The Darkness is Always There: An Introduction”

Gabino Iglesias…5

“The Morbs” Greg Sisco…9

“The Hatching” Brian Keene…25            

“She’s Back” Clara Madrigano…39

“Der Erwich Yaeger” Alessandro DiFrancesco…51                        

“A Winterland Surprise” Kathryn E. McGee…67                                              

“The Bone Fire” Alan Baxter…81                                            

“Rainbow Black” Gina Ranalli…91                                         

“An Invisible Christmas Spectacular” Bev Vincent…97

“Elmreach” Jonathan Duckworth…103

“Frito Pie” Kelly J. Ford…115                                                                                

“A Total Super Miracle on 34th St.” Mackenzie Kiera…125

“O Little Town…” Mark Allan Gunnells…139

“Feu De Joie” Magnolia Strock…149

“Somebody Always Hears You” Elizabeth Hirst…157

“Christmas Every Day” Nicole Willson…171

“The Christmas Cabin” Fred Venturini…179

“What Happens in the Dark Will Soon Happen in the Light”

Michael Harris Cohen…195

“The Best Christmas Town in Maryland!” Sheri White…205

“Christmas in Quail’s Egg” Max Carrey…215

“A Wail of Christmas” Jillian Bost…225

“Holiday Traditions” Cynthia Pelayo…231

“Mother and Child” Todd Robinson…237