Sean M. Thompson’s the Demon: Chapter Four



The Demon
by Sean M. Thompson

August 13th

Cort sat in the Dunkin’ Donuts with Scott, who was prattling on about some new Netflix show. He wasn’t paying attention, too busy staring out the window at a homeless woman stumbling along the sidewalk. She looked to be in her sixties, though the quality of life on the street certainly prematurely aged a person.

“I’m sorry – what’s that, Scott?”

“Nevermind that. What are you staring at outside?”

“Homeless lady.”

“What, you going to ask her on a date?”

“Scott, don’t be an asshole.”

It was Saturday, and Cort was glad to have the day off. He hadn’t slept well last night, but he couldn’t remember why. Scott was in rare form, winking at random women in the Dunks, and throwing napkins at him to get Cort to pay attention. Cort pointed out the window at the street, and they beat feet. None too soon, as a very annoyed looking woman was shooting hot needles into both of them, probably due to the fact Scott had mimed a telephone with his hand and mouthed “call me” over at her.

“What time is it?”

“Like two.”

“Fuck it, let’s hit the bar.”

Fitzy’s was a shithole. No getting around that. But, the place was dark, the drinks were cheap, and Cort knew Scott could blend in being an obnoxious asshat there.

“You have anything imported?” Cort asked.

It was a game he liked to played with Mike, the regular bartender at Fitzy’s. The bartender always answered the same way.

“You want that stupid shit, head somewhere else.”

“How you doing today, Mike?”

“I think I got that med resistant gonorrhea or some shit. My fuckin’ nuts been hurting, and it burns to piss. Been like this for a few weeks.”


“You’re telling me. Last time I fuck Sheryll.”

“No idea who that is, Mike.”

Mike pointed to a woman who looked to be fifty-something seated at a booth in the corner of the mostly empty bar.

“She a regular?”

“And is she single?” Scott asked, looking up from his phone.

“Did you not hear what he just said…”

“Why? What did Mike say?”

“Nevermind,” Mike said. “Just, uh, leave that one alone.” He laughed.

They drank shitty cheap beer, and eventually played darts, and despite Cort’s insistence Scott started hitting on Sheryll, and when things looked to be going a little too good for Scott, Cort made a point to tell Scott about what Mike had said earlier. The face Scott made, Cort couldn’t help but burst out laughing.

They left Fitzy’s around five, and headed to a classier joint closer to downtown. The rest of the night was a blur of crowded bars, college kids, douchey businessmen, ladies done up to impress the douchey businessmen, and a heaping helping of hipsters doing their best at playing dress up. The drinks were overpriced, the atmosphere was bougy, but it was fun watching Scott hitting on women who were no doubt hoping to bag someone with a nice chunky wallet, and Cort even joined in at one point for fun.

He got a text from Janet before they left, asking if he wanted to hang out the next day. He said maybe, depending on how bad his hangover was.

“One more, man!” Scott yelled when they left the hoity-toity drinkery about midnight.

“Dude, I’m exhausted, but godspeed.”

“Call you tomorrow?” Scott asked.

“Sure, asshole.”

Scott mimed a phone with his hand, and Cort gave him the finger. As he walked away, Cort wondered what bar Scott would end up at. He’d figure it out the next day, in any case.


When the Uber finally dropped Scott at his apartment, he was the kind of drunk where you forget you’re going to the bathroom halfway through. The kind of drunk where you might, say, trip over the trash can in your bedroom, and whack your funny bone, and not even feel it.

Everything came in waves. He was in the kitchen, heating up Ramen noodles. He was on his desktop, watching YouTube videos. He was watching a Metallica video where they were with a symphony. He was watching a dog tell him “I love you”.

When the first flash of red hit the screen, he thought his eyes were playing tricks on him. After all, he was really loaded. Another few videos, and he thought little of what he may or may not have seen.

Soon, the screen was flashing red, strobing, and there was an intense pressure behind Scott’s eyes, inside his forehead, and the headache was so intense he cried out in pain, a short bark of anger and an expression of his torment. He fell to the floor, felt his eyes leaking what he at first took to be tears. He ran his hand across his face to dry his eyes, and his fingers came back bloody.

And then a voice in his head.

“Start your work, my child.”

August 14th

Around noon, Cort tried Scott’s cell. He left a message. He tried again at one, 1:30, two, and 2:30 before he finally gave up.

He’s probably just phenomenally hungover, Cort thought.

Still, he didn’t like the feeling he had. He wasn’t one to put much stock into premonitions, intuitions, anything like that. But some part of him he couldn’t push aside, some internal sensor, was ringing an alarm bell. Cort had no idea why, and he didn’t know how to stop the feeling.

He called once more at five, and left one last message for the night.

“Scott, please call me back when you get this. I’m worried, man. I know that’s stupid, but…man, just call me back when you get this. Hope you’re not too hungover, dude.”

Around seven, he went for a walk down by the docks. It wasn’t exactly the scenic part, more the commercial district, with warehouses and now empty dirt parking lots. He stared out at the ocean, and wondered who might come in on some of those ships.

Or what? he thought, and again, wondered what prompted such a thought.

To be continued
November 13th, 2016.

“Too Late” (Review)


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Too Late Cover.jpg

Too Late
by Sean M. Thompson

Sean M. Thompson‘s debut Too Late opens with a story about a murderess on death row who carves her victims’ heads into “art” before selling them online.

That’s a pretty good tone-setter for this book.

Let’s backtrack a bit – full disclosure must come first. Sean M. Thompson stories have appeared on this site before (the dark and gross “LillyBridge“; an original serialized novella called The Demon; and, on my Matthew M. Bartlett fan site, the manic nightmare of “Martin Pussfoot Strikes Again“), I am a devoted listener to the podcast he co-hosts, and I did blurb this book.

However –

 – there is a reason why I did all of those things.

That reason?

Sean M. Thompson is friggin’ awesome.

So is the cover to this collection of shorts, as one can see. It’s by a fella named Mark Richards. There’s another bit of promo art that I don’t think has been used, by the talented Yves Tourigny. Let’s have a look at that below, shall we?


Ah. Lovely.

And those images capture the spirit of Too Late so very well – one bursting with energy and insanity, the other a quiet terror. There’s a good mix of both throughout the book.

The first story, the one I mentioned before – “Fickle Mortality” being its title – is an ideal example.

On the one hand, you’ve a (hopefully) insane woman raving about murder as a tool to travel backwards through the gateway of death into a new life.

On the other hand, you’ve got a tired old criminal sitting on death row, reflecting on their crimes, pondering what will happen next.

Such balancing acts are what Thompson excels at in these stories – an ability to make the supernatural frenzied and bloody while simultaneously slow and creeping.

This is continued into the next story, one called “Stranded in the Storm”. Brrrrr. I could imagine reading this by the fire on Christmas Eve, the spirits of Charles Dickens and M.R. James reclining in armchairs, delighted at the chance for one last ghost story for Christmas.

Except this isn’t a ghost story. Not, at least, in the literal sense.

Instead it’s about a couple driving in the snow when the car breaks down. This is a classic urban legend motif, of course, and but one of the reasons why Too Late‘ll make a great Halloween read (with its EC Comics-style nastiness and its inventive usage of classic monsters). I won’t delve into the details, but let’s just say there’s something very nasty in the snow – something both tragic and horrifying, with its eyes set on the young lovers.

My personal favorite, though, is story number three, a tale called “Jumpin’ Jack”. This introduces the forest of Whispering Pines, which is a connective element between some of Thompson’s stories. Its a very short vignette that only hints at the supernatural, but Jesus, it’s disturbing. The less one knows about this story walking in, the better, but it sent a noticeable shudder through my frame.

Then we have “Dust”, a ghostly Western following two murderous outlaws that come across a ghost town. The slow buildup in this one is delicious, and the characters are probably the most fleshed-out in the book. Again, any hint of what is to come is a bit of a spoiler, but it’s quite possibly the bloodiest tale in the book – at least, one with the most onscreen violence.

Concluding the book – wait, are we really done already? – concluding the chapbook is “The End of Humanity”, a short piece which is thematically connected to the aforementioned serialized novella The Demon. It’s a piece which damns you as you read the first word, epitomizes the title of the collection, claims to sentence the reader to eternal agony via a culturally transmitted disease – demonic possession. Thankfully, this story is a work of fiction. If it wasn’t, then I’d be dooming you just by writing this review – even as your eyes scan the screen, you’d  be infected.

But it’s not true.


Look, the point is, Too Late is a knock-it-out-of-the-park debut and the perfect book for Halloween. Clocking in at an appropriate 66 pages, it’s very, very short, but what it lacks in length it makes up for in content. That content consists of good, realistic people (straight out of our own lives) thrown into nasty, bloody situations (straight out of the pulp magazines). It’s dark, it’s gruesome, and above all, it’s promising.

I’m a Sean M. Thompson fan.

And I’m proud of it.

You can – and should – buy Too Late on Kindle here and in paperback format here.

“Greener Pastures” (Review)


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Greener Pastures
by Michael Wehunt

Trees feature a great deal in Michael Wehunt‘s debut collection Greener Pastures. This is, of course, not new – the dark forest is burnt permanently into the human mind – but there’s a certain way they’re handled in the book that makes this horror trope even eerier. They are treated less as ominous background and more as sentient beings in and of themselves, centuries written in the twisted canals of their bark, gazing upon humanity with an eye that varies from cold to sadistic. They are not mood nor setting – they are characters.

Michael Bukowski‘s excellent cover, then, sets the tone for the book impeccably. The eye is first drawn to the figures – the diseased golden dog holding a grotesque wooden object, the faceless creatures lurking in the background, the multitude of insects and fungi that are growing on the dirt floor – but truly it is the dark, looming trees that build atmosphere, casting a sickly green-blue light over the whole scenery.

The concisely-designed volume is introduced expertly by Simon Strantzas, a horror veteran cementing Wehunt as one of the masters of our time.

But on to the real treasures – the stories. The book opens with “Beside Me Singing in the Wilderness”, a dark and weird story of a “bloodfall” on a cursed mountain and two young girls who come across it. This writer cannot reveal much more about this story then that, but the reader is assured that it is a fantastically strange and gruesome story with hints of vampirism and unnerving subtext.

The book really gets going at “Onanon”, however, which riffs on the idea of “infected text” (as Wehunt calls it in his story notes) to frightening effects. Adam is a man drifting hopelessly through a bleak life, his mother a broken woman, his life dreary and untethered. But when he moves to a mountain cabin at the behest of a mysterious woman, his world begins to unravel. Revelation is piled upon revelation, but it never feels out-of-control – on the contrary, Wehunt uses subtlety to tell a story mixed with moments of quiet beauty and intense fear. The story also shows the influence of Lovecraft, though the “infected text” appearing herein is far scarier than anything Lovecraft could’ve thought up.

The collection’s titular story is one of the most atmospheric stories I have ever read. As Wehunt mentions in his notes, he wanted to write something that was a cross between the fantasy of The Twilight Zone and the realism of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Not only does “Greener Pastures” pay tribute to both, but it exceeds these influences. This is such a fantastic story that it would be criminal to even hint at – you should walk into this tale unexpecting and nervous, letting it envelop you in its atmospheric, moody darkness. I will, however, quote one line that has stuck with me since I have read it, has rattled me day and night, since it is something I have experienced many times – “He poured the creamer in and stirred his coffee. The clink of the spoon unnerved him. It was too much like an alarm bell.” Quite possibly the most atmospheric tale in the book. It would almost certainly take scariest if not for – well, we’ll get to it when we get to it.


Michael Bukowski’s depiction of “Those Between the Spaces“.

We delve into weirder territory with “A Discreet Music”, a haunting tribute to Robert Aickman (and originally published in the Shirley Jackson Award-winning Aickman’s Heirs, edited by the aforementioned Simon Strantzas). The passing of an elderly man’s wife brings many changes, some supernatural and others emotional. This is a…difficult story – not in the sense that it is poorly written or convoluted; but in that it deals with uncomfortable topics, personal issues, and rough emotions. This one lingered with me. I honestly can’t talk too much about this one either – it is more of an experience than a traditional story, and the reader should not have any foreknowledge of it.

“The Devil Under the Maison Blue” takes the good old-fashioned horror from “Greener Pastures” and the difficult subjects of “A Discreet Music”, combining them into a Jazz Era retelling of the Faustian legend. This story has won many accolades for Wehunt, and while it isn’t my favorite in the collection (though it is utterly awesome), I can see why so many people love it. The fact that its a Faustian story ought to tell you a good deal about the tale, so I won’t talk about it any further, save for the fact that it is a dark story well worth reading. Now onto the goods…

“October Film Haunt: Under the House“. What the hell can I say about this story? Michael said to me in a message he was “putting aside the emotional depth for a bit and just trying to be really scary”. And God, this story is scary. Intensely scary. A found footage yarn, “October Film Haunt: Under the House” reads like The Blair Witch Project (one of my favorite films) on steroids. Following a group of bloggers investigating the house where a surreal horror film was shot, this story spirals into heart-stopping terror almost immediately. While the format in which the found footage is presented can be somewhat difficult to grasp at first, the story is otherwise flawless. Definitely the scariest in the collection, and quite possibly my favorite of the contents.

We take a deeeeeeeep breather with “Deducted from Your Share in Paradise”, about a small hick trailer community that is thrown into disarray when mysterious women quite literally fall down from the sky. These mute visitors quickly integrate themselves into the community, each finding a male partner and engaging in sexual relationships with them. The situation, however, is a little more complicated for the protagonist of the story, who abstains from intercourse with his angelic guest and begins to form emotional attachments with her. Just like “A Discreet Music”, its a quieter story that certainly deserves the label weird as opposed to horror. The ending destroyed me.

“The Inconsolable” is a dark, dark story, following a depressed man’s attempted suicide after a difficult breakup. The story genuinely captures the rough patch following the end of a relationship, and how that can lead to bad places. Of course, it’d be hard to imagine a worse place than where our protagonist ends up, even after the failed suicide attempt, but nonetheless its realism can be far more disturbing than the unusual apparitions that begin to plague the narrator.

Starting out through the lens of a traditional demonic possession story but ending up in a more Lovecraftian place, “Dancers” is another collection standout. Trees also appear in this story, taking a more prominent place in the story. The trees – the story’s titular “dancers” – mirror a woman’s relationship with her husband, which is upended by a disturbing change in behavior resulting in an exorcism. The very physical entity that had taken control of the husband, however, is not gone forever. A beautiful and unsettling tale.

Rounding out the weirder entries in the book is “A Hundred Thousand Years”, which is haunting beyond compare. In his story notes, Wehunt ruminates on the idea that when a child dies, or disappears, all potential futures are annihilated along with the child’s life. Our protagonist is a Mexican immigrant, and Wehunt portrays him as such without bias but instead with objectivity, showing him as human being (some disgusting assholes would have it otherwise, but this isn’t a political blog). To say anything more would be to ruin the story’s haunting ending, but rest assured, it is a tragic and strange story that is worth your attention.

In a book packed full of bleeding mountains, emaciated Christs, tentacle monsters, geese, sexually voracious angels, doppelgängers, ghosts, and less definable things, its strange to close the story with an entirely non-supernatural story. Don’t underestimate it, though – “Bookends” has teeth, and it will bite. The loving couple (their names are a little inside joke, which most Stephen King fans’ll get) around which the story centers are fully-rendered as real people with real emotions, which makes the tragedies that follow all the more upsetting. The story, however, ends on a note of hope, despite it being arguably the darkest story in the book due to its brutally honest realism. And that’s a beautiful thing, no? As Wehunt says in his notes at the end of the book, horror can’t exist without hope.

In regards to Wehunt himself – well, to quote Abigail Williams from Arthur Miller’s seminal The Crucible, “I have something better than hope”. What a debut! These stories are as powerful as any master’s – and Michael Wehunt surely is a master. From the breakneck horror of “October Film Haunt: Under the House” to the weirdness of “A Discreet Music” to the crushing real life situations of “Bookends”, Greener Pastures truly has something for everyone – and I’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t like the book. It’s quite possibly the best collection of the year, which is really saying something considering the wealth of material produced already. This is the gateway to something truly beautiful and horrifying, and we should all wait with eager breath, watching the spaces between the trees.

You can buy Greener Pastures on Amazon here.

Sean M. Thompson’s the Demon: Chapter Three


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Chapter 3
August 1st

Slow day at the office was a goddamn understatement. Cort felt like his brain might leak out ears from the monotony of plugging in numbers into the spreadsheet, and it was only eleven o’clock. Behind him sat Jake, and secretly Cort hated Jake, and wished he’d die in a house fire. Jake never stopped talking about inane bullshit while Cort was trying to focus on numbers, or typing up work emails. And as if on cue…

“You hear that girl from accounting had sex with the boss?”

Normally Cort would try his level-headed best to ignore Jake, but he was almost done with everything he had to do for the day, so he entertained him this time.

“No. Which girl?”


“What’s she look like?”

“She’s the one with the huge bo – ”

“Hair color, Jake.”

“Light brown.”

“She pretty tall?”


“I think I know who you’re talking about. And who told you?”

“No one had to. I saw them walking together. It was written all over their faces.”

“What was written?”

“You know when you’ve been schtooping someone, how when you’re around them you act a certain way? Their body language alone told me.”

“I don’t know, man.”

Cort wondered, not for the first time, why human beings had evolved to have such minds, only to waste them on repetitive tasks for an arbitrary system of currency. He was far from immune from the culture, and participated along with everyone else. Video games, and brain melting reality television, and why beat around the bush, most of the internet. All because what, we couldn’t really handle thinking too hard? That had to be the reasoning. Why else would seemingly smart people intentionally drag themselves through the mud?

Take Jake for instance. Nice suit, and he seemed like a smart enough guy. Worked in outside sales. And yet all he ever did was gossip, and bitch about whatever woman was unlucky enough to be dating him that quarter. The man was so self-involved Cort wasn’t sure if he even remembered he was dating someone, and when his cube mate wasn’t being a rampant narcissist, he might as well have been a TMZ reporter, going over what “celebrity” of the moment was supposedly doing what.

A tap on his shoulder, and he flinched, made an involuntary noise like a wounded deer.

“I’d like to see you in my office, Cort,” said his boss, Gerald.

Inside his boss’ office were those obnoxious motivational posters with pictures of mountains that said something about climbing a mountain and how it started with a single step, and some other inanities he didn’t bother to look at. He always wondered why there wasn’t the cat hanging from the tree branch, though. That was always Cort’s favorite.

“This is nothing serious, Cort, just wanted to ask you if you still needed that time off in August.”

He didn’t like where this was going.

“Yeah. That’s why I requested it off two months ago.”

“See, the thing is, Cort…”

Cort thought of calming thoughts. A serene beach, the ocean waves lapping at the shore. Peaceful. Mmm. Perhaps a quiet forest, with nothing but the light chirping of birds. A lazy river at one of those water parks, cool, blended frozen boozy drink in hand, with one of those little umbrellas.

“We have a lot of people who want that week in August off in your department,” Gerald explained, and Cort lost it. He couldn’t help it.

“I’m going, and if you don’t like it, you can find a replacement for my position.”

Cort got up, and walked out.

Well, I might be getting fired, Cort thought, not for the first time in his career.

He really needed to talk to someone. It seemed like every year the fuse on his temper got shorter and shorter.


Janet proved to be as good a conversationalist outside of the party as she had been in. She was also cool with going on a date on a Monday, which Cort liked. She had one of those smiles which reminded him of the sun shining on a pastoral scene.

They walked along the waterfront, having gone for seafood a few blocks down at some restaurant called the Barking Crab. Cort wasn’t sure how a crab could bark, but he’d stuffed his face (diet still going nowhere) and was pleased that Janet ate just as much as he did. Nothing wrong with a diet, but it unnerved him when a woman wouldn’t eat much. Made him feel bad about how much he ate, so maybe that was on him. Still, he’d always thought those anorexic looking women looked like they were in a lot of pain. He understood societal pressures to stay thin, of course, but what was life without a chow off every once and awhile?

“You heard about that computer virus?”

He’d been swept up with the view, and the smell of the harbor. Hadn’t caught the question the first time. Asked Janet to repeat what she’d said. She did.

“Yeah. Yeah, I have a friend who has a friend he thinks went crazy because of it.”

“Woah, really? Who?”

He paused, debated not saying, and then decided starting to date someone on lies was doomed from the start.



They walked on, and he put his hand in hers. They moved in silence for a while.

“Let’s not talk about that, though. I’m sure it’s unrelated,” he said, finally.

“Probably, yeah,” Janet said.

A plane passed overhead, but the noise of them was so ubiquitous, Cort hardly noticed.

“Kinda crazy that hundreds of years ago they dumped tea in this, huh?”

“A little,” she said, and added “but then again, there might be a computer virus that drives people crazy.”

Back onto this again, he thought, enjoying the way the pink of the sunset cast a glow on Janet’s face, and the way she squinted in the light. Such beauty shouldn’t have been tainted by a conversation about crazies from the internet.

“I’m sure it’s unrelated,” he repeated.

A seagull cawed, pecking greedily at a discarded lobster shell on the pier. Pink meat stretched in its beak as it ripped it from the exoskeleton. There was something primal about the sight, which sent a chill down Cort’s spine. Nature dictated that you ate, and you did it by any means necessary. He suddenly wanted to get off of the pier, as soon as possible.

“Do you believe in portents of bad things to come?” she asked him.

“What?” Cort asked.

He wasn’t really sure if he’d heard Janet right.

“I said ‘do you believe that portraits are fun’? There’s a guy I saw around the aquarium who was drawing them. You know, the ones where you have a huge head, and are juggling, or something? Caricatures?”

“Oh. I…I thought you said something else.”

They agreed to meet the following Saturday for another date.


Scott came over, and they got drunk and made fun of a bunch of second rate thrillers. It being a Monday, Cort didn’t get too shithouse. He’d made that mistake a month back, and work had been miserable.

Scott, on the other hand…

“Hell yeah, Angelina!” Scott screamed at the movie.

“Collect his bones!” Cort shouted.

“I’ll collect your bone…er,” Scott said.

Cort threw an empty at him.


“You want some more salsa? I’m heading back to the kitchen.”

“Nah, I’m all right,” Scott said.

Cort pulled the glass jar out of the fridge, poured more into a bowl, absently staring out the window. He was thinking about his date with Janet, hoping he hadn’t fucked things up too badly. Wondering if he should go get a portrait with her. Seemed kind of random she would just bring that up. Maybe she was trying to give him a hint on what they could do on their next date.

There was a man on the street staring up at his apartment.

Cort couldn’t figure out why the man unnerved him so. He didn’t break eye contact, and the man was still as a statue. His features were hard to discern. Perhaps it was that the fellow was lit only by a streetlight in the gloaming. A ghost in the summer, produced by heat, and stress.

Cort waved, and the man turned, walked off down the street. He turned around the corner, and was gone.

“Some fucking guy was staring up at my place,” Cort said, walking back over to Scott.

“Probably wants your sweet booty,” Scott said, and Cort threw another empty at him.

“You can collect my bone!” Scott shouted at the screen.

“You’re an idiot,” Cort said.

He laughed, but couldn’t get his mind off of the man staring up at him. Cort could have sworn the guy hadn’t blinked once.


He walked the same pier he’d walked with Janet, only now he was alone. There was a quality to the light he couldn’t place. He looked off toward the center of the city. Buildings with broken glass, and fires all over. Yet he couldn’t see any people. Where was everybody?

He heard a man scream in pain, from the direction of the harbor. Cort’s hand made its way to his mouth to quiet his own scream.

The harbor was full of dead bodies of all shapes, colors, and genders. The corpses floated in the water, so much blood the waves churned red. The man in the waves stopped screaming, and Cort couldn’t stifle his sobs. Boston Harbor of the dead, the most awful thing he’d ever seen.

“There, there,” said a man’s voice from behind him.

Cort didn’t want to turn. There was something wrong with the man. Cort knew this, and wasn’t sure how he knew.

“You knew this was always in the cards, right?” the man said.

Cort wanted to run, to fight, but he couldn’t move. He heard the bodies thump into the dock with every churn of the water. And now the smell of gallons of blood hit him, copper in the salt air. Doom on the wind, an ocean of misery and madness before him.

“Had a little Tea Party of my own,” the man said, and laughed.

“Who are you?”

“I’ll see you soon, Cort.”


He couldn’t get back to sleep after the nightmare. Scott hadn’t said anything about Abie, or Katie, and it was Scott’s lack of discussion that really freaked Cort out more than anything. As if Scott somehow knew something Cort didn’t. As if holding out hope they’d find the missing women no longer made any sense.

He stared at the ceiling, and thought about how fragile sanity was. How intricate human thought was. How something as silly as a passing comment about the Boston tea party made him have a nightmare about such a terrible atrocity on such a grand scale.

Yet he kept going back to the man outside his window. He wondered, if he were to hear that man’s voice, would it sound like the voice from his dream?


“That’s quite a lot of food,” the waitress said.

“We have quite a lot of appetite,” the man replied.

She gave him a perplexed look, asked if he wanted another root beer, then left him to his own devices. He took a bite of his clam chowder, and forked a fried clam into his wide mouth.

Boston really was a lovely city. There was a rich history here, one which could be seen in the brick facades, and old cobblestone streets. The man made a note to explore a little more in the next few days, when other matters weren’t demanding of his attention.

He sat by himself on the picnic table, and watched the waves lap up against the boats docked. He’d always loved the water. It reminded him of things hidden. Reminded him of things in the dark depths.

Reminded him of home.

He looked across the table at a girl, who he guessed was about nine years old. She stared with the resolve of an impertinent child, never breaking his gaze. The child’s mother was talking with a friend, not paying attention to her offspring.

In his head, he heard the girl, whose name was Daisy, ask him Why do you look like that?

Ah, he did love the impertinent ones.

He thought in response: How do you mean?

Like you’re too big, Daisy thought.

The man thought: You’re very astute. Most people don’t notice.

Daisy thought: You’re not a man at all, are you?

He laughed, and the mother looked at him. He adorned his best embarrassed face, and saw the mother relax a bit.

He looked off towards the lights of the city. So wondrous, so chock full of bodies, of spirits. Soon, he would pry the city wide, like a clam shell, and dig his fingers in to pull forth the substance encased within. But not just yet. Better to be the stirring at the back of the room, than the cacophony. The loud outburst was dealt with immediately. The stirring wasn’t checked up on until it was too late.

So thinking, the man took another bite of his chowder, and chewed, relishing the texture of the clams in the broth.

Do you like truth or dare? the man thought.

He ate the rest of his friend clams, watching Daisy slowly walk out to the edge of the dock. Her mother didn’t notice her child had wandered off, and he was glad. It would ruin the dare. And that was no fun. No, that wouldn’t do at all.

He thought to Daisy: I dare you to hold your breath underwater for as long as you can.

He left cash on the table, and walked off down the pier before the screaming started.

To be continued
October 13th, 2016.

Sean M. Thompson’s the Demon: Chapter Two


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by Sean M. Thompson

Chapter 2
July 29th

Cort’s father, Francisco Garcia, sipped his coffee. He smiled in the way all fathers do when they’re pleased to see their children again. It had been too long since he’d seen Cort, and he always liked to catch up with his boy; his little boy, and Cort was thirty now, but in some way he’d always think of his son as a small child, when he’d play in the backyard of their house before the divorce.

“I’m stuffed,” Francisco said, and noted his son’s nod of assent.

Cort wasn’t shocked his dad was full. His father had eaten such a large plate of Linguini it was a wonder he could still speak.

“I really don’t know how you aren’t obese,” Cort said.

“Good genes, plenty of exercise, I guess.”

Cort relished the moment, free of stress. Especially after all the weirdness with the disappearance of Katie earlier in the week, hanging out with Scott, trying to see if anyone had seen her. Cort tried to enjoy the moments when he noted they were good; hold onto them the way other people might hold onto knick knacks.

Life would beat you down, if you let it. So it was important to recognize the good times.

The lights were low, provided primarily by a candle in an empty wine bottle on the table. The restaurant was small, with paintings of villas and the Italian countryside along the light yellow walls. You hardly had elbow room, but the food was so good you didn’t care. It was a favorite spot of his dad’s. They went to this place at least twice a year.

Wasn’t a terrible way to spend a Friday night, stuffing your face with your dad in Boston’s North End. Cort certainly wasn’t having much luck in the coliseum fight to the death known as the dating scene, so why not catch up? It really had been too long.

“You talk to your mother recently?”

“No. I was going to call her tomorrow.”

“She worries about you, you know. You should call her more.”

“She’s my mom. That’s what moms do, right? They worry.”

Es verdad,” his father said.

Later, walking the streets of the North End en route to get cannolis, Cort asked his dad if he’d heard anything at work about the Demon.

“What’s that?”

“It’s a computer virus called ‘the Demon’, or maybe ‘the Red Screen of Death’. You heard anything about it yet in the office?”

Francisco gave Cort a puzzled look.

“Haven’t heard anything yet, son.”

“Yeah…you might not ever.”

Cort felt pretty dumb. It was like he’d just asked his dad if he’d seen any leprechauns lately. I must sound like some kind of crazy person asking this shit.

Cort wrote a note into his phone: Call mom tomorrow.

“Anyway, let’s go cram some more food down our gullets,” his dad said.

“Why the hell not?” Cort replied, and his father’s high cholesterol was a good reason why the hell not, but Cort kept that comment to himself.


Scott drove, and his speakers pumped out heavy bass, Rick Ross rapping how God forgave, and he didn’t, and how only hustlers could relate to such a sentiment.

Cort was in the back seat, drank from a mix of rum and orange juice in a little silver flask. He liked the mix, because a lot of people hated it, so less people tried to get a hit off his booze. He did feel like a loser being older than twenty-one pregaming before a party, though.

A lot of the time Cort felt like he was too old to be doing…literally every type of social activity he engaged in. But there was also the sense that being an adult nowadays had a different connotation. The world was changing, and it was normal to do things children liked to do at, say, thirty-one. Case in point, take that new Pokémon game everyone was losing their minds over. These weren’t children playing the game, well, not exclusively. These were people with children of their own, by every definition adults, and yet playing a game made for children.

“Whose house are we going to again?” Cort shouted over the music.

“Janet’s!” Scott shouted back.

Cort gave him a thumbs up, and went back to staring out the window at the other Friday night people. They were around Allston, and though he disliked the area, Cort liked Janet (or at least thought he liked Janet), if in fact Janet was the Janet he’d met at a dinner party a few months back who he was thinking of. His memory had always been full of holes; it was a wonder Cort could remember to dress himself in the morning.

Some guy on a skateboard ate shit trying to jump over a planter built into the sidewalk. Cort laughed, felt guilty about it, and then gave up any attempt at having a conscience and continued to laugh at the man’s pain. Such was the world, wasn’t it? There were whole shows designed around laughing at other people’s pain.

He was just being a member of society. Cort hadn’t designed the system, he just played in it.


More than half of the party were staring at their phones. It was funny, it made you want to stare at your own phone in turn, even though you’d feel like just another statistic. There was a strange comfort in disappearing, even surrounded by people you could make an honest to God, face to face interaction with.

Cort had always been awkward. Maybe he thought too much, worried too much, but even thinking this was thinking too much for a party, wasn’t it? He’d always envied people either willing to get so loaded people enjoyed them, or so naturally charismatic people loved them.

Cort had never been one of those people. The things people laughed at the hardest he said were statements he always expressed in perfect sincerity. But then, again, the society he lived in laughed at others’ pain, didn’t it? So, it all made sense, in a deranged sort of way.

Shit or get off the pot, right?

The speakers blared some incessant mix of pop and pop rap, which he found about as enjoyable as a frying pan to the face. And it all came back to dumbing everything down: the music, the conversations, even the fun had to be dumbed down at these kinds of parties. Or, at least, that was how it seemed to him.

Cort saw Janet (or the girl he thought of as Janet), standing by the entrance to the kitchen, under the door frame. He caught her eye, and was pleased to note she was in fact the woman he was thinking of from the dinner party. He was fairly sure it was, at least.

Cort maneuvered his way over, and took a quick hit off his flask for courage before he began the introductions. He prayed that this was actually Janet, and not some random woman he was about to embarrass himself in front of.

“Hey!” he shouted.

“Hey!” she shouted back in turn.

Janet motioned to the kitchen, presumably because it was quieter in there, easier to talk.

“That’s a little better,” Janet said once they’d made it inside the better lit kitchen.

She smiled, and it brightened Cort’s mood; miraculous, considering mere minutes before Cort didn’t think it would have been possible.

He noted Janet’s canine teeth were a little sharp looking, and was intrigued to learn he found this to be cute. He then became cognizant of how many seconds of silence had elapsed, and he desperately searched his brain for a statement, any statement…

“Yeah, a little quieter. Yeah.”

Oh, this is going great, he thought.

The silence ticked away, every second amplifying his feelings of conversational failure.

He decided he’d just do like Hunter S. Thompson advised: When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

“I like your sharp canine teeth,” he said, and Janet laughed.

And he still felt uncomfortable, so he grabbed a beer off of a nearby table, popped it open, and started to chug from it.

“I like that you didn’t bother to ask if you could have that beer,” remarked Janet.

“Uh, I can give you a few bucks – ”

“Relax…Cort, right?”

She remembered his name, so that was something. Although, she could just be one of those people that was really good with names…

“Janet, yeah?”

“Guilty as charged,” she said.

Cort laughed, and his laugh was a little too loud, and someone from in the living room, where the party proper occurred, gave him a funny look.

“You wanna get dinner sometime?” he asked, then immediately thought wow, way too soon, Cort.

Sure. Not with you, though.”

I’m just gonna go jump off a building, he thought.

“I’m kidding! What’s your phone number?”

“Asking for mine. How progressive.”

“Progressive, shmogressive, a number is a number. Gender should have nothing to do with it.”

I hope I don’t fuck this one up, Cort thought.

They chatted for another half hour. They talked about work, she talked about renting, the trials and tribulations of losing a job, which she had last year. A good conversation, and when Scott nudged him on the shoulder and explained he was taking off, Cort felt better than he had in a long, long while.

It was always nice when people surprised you.

“You two seemed to be hitting it off,” Scott said, as they left the house.

“I’d like to think so,” Cort said.

They climbed into Scott’s car. Cort making a grunting noise. He really needed to lose some weight. The spare tire was a product of a sedentary lifestyle, one full of take-out and lethargy.

“Yeah. I think we’re gonna go to dinner,” Cort said.

“My man!” and Scott shot him with a finger gun.

Cort mimed taking the hit, and slumped in the passenger seat.

July 30th

A Saturday, and for some reason Scott had come over. Nice to have someone around, so Cort tried not to get too annoyed about Scott’s lack of prior invitation.

Cort was scrolling through some of the Facebook statuses Katie still had up. One caught his eye.

chapter 2 #1

“You know, it’s twisted, but it sounds like it’d make a good drinking song,” Cort said.

Cort handed his phone to Scott, who read the post, and giggled.

“You got any more beer?” Scott asked, and for some reason felt the need to mime a man drinking, tipping his hand to his mouth.

“Yeah, you don’t need to act it out. I know what a beer is.”

They drank, and then drank some more for good measure. Then they sang the lyrics of Katie’s post, and Cort really hoped none of his neighbors could hear. They sang it as a round, then they danced while they sang it. Frankly, Cort was embarrassed how much time they spent singing the fake song by what was clearly a mentally ill person.

When they’d grown tired, Cort asked if Scott had heard anything from Katie’s family yet.

“Not yet. No.”

They sat in silence.

“We probably shouldn’t have sang that. This whole thing isn’t funny.”

“No. It isn’t,” Scott said.

Scott left the room, grabbed another beer out of the fridge, without asking if he could. Cort threw him a bottle opener. Scott drank deep, finishing half of the beer in a few moments.

“I’ve been drinking a lot lately,” Scott said.

“It’s sorta understandable. Katie disappearing is pretty fucked.”

“It’s not just that,” Scott said.

Scott finished the beer and sighed. Cort felt for his friend. It was obvious he was really stressed out.

“You remember Abie?”


“She’s gone missing too.”

Cort wasn’t sure what to say. One disappearance was odd, but two, in the same month? Cort heard someone shouting in the hall, momentarily distracted. He came back to the present.

He tried not to show how strange this news made him feel. He wondered about the nature of the mind, and how technology could affect it. How little anyone really seemed to know about the effects of say, the Pokémon game everyone was playing, or even the little stuff like all the apps people used everyday on their smart phones. The burning question was, could a virus sent through the web really mess with your brain? Is that what really happened to these two women? It was science fiction, someone’s made-for-TV movie. There was no way this could be real. There was no getting over the doubt.

The doubt was what kept Cort from freaking out.

He scrolled through Facebook, and looked at another post from Katie on his phone.


chapter 2 #2


Later that night, Cort looked to see if there was anything Abie had posted. There were a few weird tweets.

chapter 2 #3

There was another one where she said she wanted to kill herself. Cort made a note in his phone to ask Scott if Abie had a history of depression, or had ever displayed any suicidal tendencies.

One of the comments under one of Abie’s tweets was a friend asking if anyone had seen the weird videos Abie posted to her YouTube channel. The girl on the comment had posted a link.

Cort followed the link, and there was a short video, thirty seconds. He clicked play, and watched as someone walked through a park; presumably Abie.

Someone behind the phone (what he assumed was a phone due to the picture quality) said:

“To be as the dragon, you must do what the dragon would.”

A group of teens on screen, a boy on the swing, a few girls smoking cigarettes, one guy playing with a basketball.

“For him,” said what Cort assumed was Abie, flatly, on the video.

He heard one of the guys on the swing ask, what the fuck?

Then the air exploded with the thunder of gunshots, and screams.

Cort flinched, closed the browser. He sat, in shock. Closed his eyes tight. Opened them again, not sure what the purpose of shutting his eyes was, just, a momentary break from seeing to calm himself.

Was this fucking real?

The events of the last week finally hit home. This wasn’t just some internet prank. Actual people were getting killed. Real people.

Except…were they? Really?

Slowly, Cort reopened YouTube, checked his history, and played the video again.

He paused the clip as soon as the gunshots started. The video quality was grainy. Cort couldn’t see the gun in the video. He watched the rest, looking for anything which could prove the authenticity of the clip, or the lack thereof. Though Cort saw the teens run, saw one of them clutching his stomach, how could he be sure this was real? A homemade squib for the blood, blanks in the gun. It’d be easy enough to fake the events.

There was one other video under Abie’s YouTube channel. This was of her face only. Cort braced himself, and pressed play.

“I’ve got this weird rash on my chest. It’s kinda like a triangle, with two points facing up. It’s not itchy, it’s just ugly, like, super duper ugly. Went to the dermatologist, he gave me some lotion to put on it. I hope it helps. I hate this rash.

“I feel really odd lately. Like I’m living in a dream. Like, maybe none of this is real. Like, maybe…maybe I’m not real. How would I know, though?

“How do I know any of this is real?”

The rest of the video was Abie filming the rash on her chest with her phone. She was right, it was pretty nasty. Red, raised, and kind of scaly.

Was it all connected? Cort remembered reading on that wiki entry for the Demon about rumors of a rash. Though, again, a Wikipedia entry was far from reliable.

Was any of it real at all? Or was it all just some kind of elaborate hoax? A prank so big many people were involved…a viral gag, so to speak.

Cort went to the kitchen, poured himself a glass of milk. Darkness clung to every corner of the room. He’d always been a fan of limited light, and coupled with his limited finances, a lamp a room seemed to be a sound decision.

He grabbed a bottle of sleeping pills from the cabinet by the fridge. Took a few, and swallowed them with the milk: tried not to feel like an addict.

Cort always had had trouble sleeping. So, he took the sleeping pills, though he tried not to do it every night.

But tonight…tonight something told him he’d need all the help he could get.


She walked in darkness, surrounded by the heavy, acrid stench of filth. The voice in her head sang a sweet melody of the deep. Her shoes were caked in human waste.

She’d never felt more alive.

Her reptile brain was front and center, fitting considering the rash which adorned her chest, back, arms and legs. It hadn’t reached her face yet.

Forward, following the song inside. Images of flames, of buildings crumbling, of gun shots ringing out all over the city. Of creatures skittering from the light, of dust clouds blocking out the sun. Of the way things would be, soon.

And always the song, always the voice, always the message of the depths; of the lost, of the broken, of the one cast down.

Her home…she had to find the one who would tell her of her new home, of her new family, of her new purpose. She needed this information, like an infant needs to be cradled in its mother’s arms.

A rat screeched at her, floating on a piece of cardboard. She snatched it in her hand, broke its neck. Sank her teeth deep into its flesh, too hungry to care about the foul taste.

“On, on, further,” she sang, her head full of love for the the champion of hate.

The man she had to meet wasn’t far now. The messenger on Earth: the one who would tell them the next phase in their evolution.

“On, on, deeper,” she sang, following a new navigational system in her head.

Her own personal GPS, courtesy of the voice in her head, and the process of changing, of becoming something more.

She didn’t miss her old life, the old routines. The old ways of man had been around for far too long.

This was destiny. This was fate.

This was the natural order of things.

Oh, but the walk was endless. When would she find the savior, the chosen one, the one sent to lead the way?

“On, on, darker,” she sang, and some instinct told her that around the next bend in the sewer, she’d find the ladder.

Sure enough, around the bend, there was a ladder. The manhole cover above was removed.

This was the way. Every part of her screamed at her body to move, to climb. To rise.

Hand over hand, up, towards the faint light. The voice in her head urging her on, giving her words of praise.

She climbed up and out of the sewer, and came upon a place she was unfamiliar with. It took her a few moments to realize what it was. Where she was.

A voice behind her then, the same as the one in her head all these weeks. The prophet. The one sent to lead them.

The Servant of the Pit.

A sweet voice for one such as him, full of compassion, and understanding.

“So glad you could make it, Abie.”

To be continued
September 13th, 2016.

Sean M. Thompson’s the Demon: Prologue & Chapter One


, ,

by Sean M. Thompson

July 22, 2016

She paced the room, trying to gather her thoughts while it was still possible. The quality of the light spoke of broken people soon to be lost forever. Every sound was excruciating, from the ticking of the clock on the wall, to the faint splashing sounds of the cars on the street outside.

She needed to do this while she was still in control. While her grasp was tight, effective, true.

A car horn startled her, made her scan the room, frantic, desperate to find the space remained as ordinary as seconds before. Never had she been so cognizant of the passage of time, of the effects of perception.

A cursory look confirmed the kitchen, the bathroom, the furniture, everything in the apartment was normal. Haphazardly strewn like clothes after a night of heavy drinking, sure, but not in completely different places as she’d found it so many times before.

This was important.

This was very important.

Her sense of reality of late had grown thin as early spring ice, and she needed the room she sat within to stay, to remain as it was, as it always had been; before this whole mess had started: before the very world around her began to constrict tight as a boa, cold-blooded, ravenous.

She sat at the desk, opened a tab in her web browser, went to Facebook, and started to type a new post. Outside, rain beat a steady rhythm on her window, and set her confession to a tune.


She shut her eyes tight, leaned back in the leather chair. Gritted her teeth. Pushed the breath out of her lungs like focusing her energy, like meditation: a gathering of all her sanity into one last stand.

One final push.

To reach out.

To stop this thing.

She wasn’t strong enough to do it on her own anymore.

She was about to click the trackpad to post the status, and stopped.

In that moment she knew all that she had been, all her hopes, and dreams, loves, and hates, everything that formed her, made her unique, all of it, all of the memories, and the photographs stored in her mind, every aspect…

…it was all lost forever.

Where she had once seen a full status, many words, now there were only five.

She posted the status, grabbed her coat, and left the apartment.

Out into the storm.

On the bright screen in the empty apartment, the five words shined through the darkness.


Chapter One
July 27th, 2016

Cort sat on his leather couch, the hum of the air conditioner mingling with Alice Cooper screaming about being eighteen, and liking it, loving it. He had his phone open to Twitter, as he so often did after work in the evenings. A half eaten chicken parm with ziti sat on the coffee table in front of him, beside an empty can of cheap light beer.

Thirty one years of age, single, and a relative loner save for a handful of friends, Cort thought his lot in life was, more or less, acceptable. His apartment was in a nice part of Boston, close to the waterfront, which he could afford mostly due to a mutual friend of the family who owned an apartment complex in this location, and cut him a discount. Not that he couldn’t have afforded it without the discount, but it made life a little easier, and provided him with a monetary cushion having a few hundred hacked off the rent every month.

He didn’t have any pets, and for the time being, he didn’t have much of a desire to rectify his lack of cuddly creatures hovering by his legs. Maybe, someday, he told himself, he’d get a dog, or a cat, or both, but as it stood currently the half-listened-to television was good enough.

Cort was scrolling through his Twitter feed of friends, celebrities, and strangers posting out their thoughts about the upcoming election, food they’d just eaten, or memes of cats, when he came upon one of his friends, Scott, or rather @ScottiBGood, and a tweet which alarmed him.


There were a few comments under the tweet, one of which was from a mutual friend named Abie, saying she hadn’t seen Katie, and stating she’d read a weird status from her a few days before her disappearance.

Cort opened up his Facebook app, and searched for Katie’s profile. He went back a few days, reading through posts, hoping for a clue as to either Katie’s whereabouts, or what Abie meant about Katie posting strange things.

Right away, it was obvious what Abie was talking about. There were posts about “the things in the basement”, “the people in the walls” and “furniture rearranging itself”. And some of the posts were even less cohesive: hard to pin down in the way a piece of abstract art is hard to interpret, which is a good thing when it comes to paintings, and a bad thing when it comes to reflections of the human psyche.


Going through one particularly odd status about a burning sensation (which Cort assumed had to do with some sort of rash) he noticed a guy had commented with “#TheDemon”. Cort googled “The Demon” and couldn’t find anything substantial. There was an IMDb listing of a really low budget looking film from 2013, an Amazon listing for a book, but the third link seemed to explain what the guy on Facebook was referencing. It was a short Wikipedia entry, and anything read off a Wiki link had to be taken with a grain of salt, but Cort dove in anyway.

Reading through the article, what he gathered was “The Demon” was some sort of new computer virus. However, there really wasn’t anything of note described, such as how to avoid getting the virus, or what the effects were on your computer, or phone, or tablet. The main thing the entry emphasized was a red flash on the screen:


“Weird,” he said.

Below this was a curious entry to the page, at the bottom, which appeared to be added only a week prior by what he assumed was another person. This short paragraph mentioned possible “changes in behavior” and “hallucinations”.

It had to be bullshit though, and it was just a Wiki entry, so Cort shrugged it off.
Cort was about to check twitter for #TheDemon when there was a knock at the door.

“Who is it?” he called out.

“Scott. Let me in, dude.”

Cort, annoyed at someone visiting without an invitation, begrudgingly let his friend inside. After all, Scott was someone he’d known since college, and one of the few friends who would actually visit Cort, so why alienate him?

“I just read one of your tweets about Katie. Any luck yet?” Cort asked.

“No. None. It’s like she just fucking vanished.”

“Yeah. What was up with some of that bizarre crap she wrote? Some of it was pretty damn spooky.”

“Definitely. And that’s what she didn’t delete,” Scott said.

“She deleted some stuff she posted?”

“Oh yeah, man. The stuff still up is tame compared to some of the ones I read before she deleted them.”

Cort didn’t know whether he should be excited he was getting involved in a mystery, or freaked out someone he considered a casual acquaintance was missing, and may or may not have had a psychotic break. Far off, he heard the horn of a boat coming into Boston Harbor. He’d gotten used to the sound, the way anyone in a city takes for granted certain noises, such as cars outside, or, more accurately, car horns.

“You want a beer?” Cort asked, already getting up to grab one for himself.

“Yeah, but just one. I told Katie’s mom I’d ask around at a few places for her tonight.”

“I’ll come with if it’s close by,” Cort said.

Cort had been on the fence on whether he wanted to go all in with the search, but it appeared that in a split second he’d decided his docket was empty enough that he could get involved in the disappearance of a friend of a friend.

“Yeah, one’s a few blocks down. Other is near MIT, so I was just going to Uber there.”

“Is it Stacy?”

“Hey, don’t get any idea Casanova.”

They sat in silence for a few, Scott drinking his beer, looking like he wanted to say something, but wasn’t quite sure how to start.

“You look like a bug crawled up your ass. Spit it out, what do you want to say?”

“I was just thinking about something Katie told me about two weeks ago.”

Cort waited, but Scott wasn’t going on. He got frustrated, and moved his hand in a circular motion, the index finger in a wheel in front of him as if to say go on.

“She told me she got that Demon computer virus.”


Stacy Danver’s place was only a few blocks from Cort’s. He’d had been trying to get Stacy in the sack for many years, and had only recently stopped his attempts.

“Hey, Stacy,” Cort said.

Stacy just stared at him, then turned her gaze to Scott.

“I haven’t talked to Katie in over a month,” Stacy said.

Scott thanked her, Cort gave her a wave which was summarily ignored, and they walked down the street to a bench, while Scott used his phone to arrange for an Uber to drive them to Abie’s house.

“Do you know a lot about computer viruses?” Scott asked.

“I know very little about them.”

This was actually an understatement. Despite having grown up around computers, Cort barely knew the ins and outs of the machines, or really about a lot of technology in general. If he ever ran into issues with technology, he’d either call his dad, ask a friend, or browse the web (if he still could) for an answer.

“My dad might know a little, he works in a government office.”

Thinking of his dad, Cort checked his text messages, and saw the one from the day before which read:


“Do you think that’s even possible? A computer virus making you go nuts?”

“I think it’s kind of nuts to even assume that’s possible,” Cort said.

“But think about it. We’ve got this huge influx of information coming at us all day with these fuckin’ things,” Scott said, shaking his cell phone over his head.

“But I think people just have shitty attention spans from that, Scott. People don’t go nuts like Katie because of it. Maybe she just had a history of mental illness, have you ever thought about that?”

A blue sedan parked by the curb, and Scott got up, made his way to the car. After confirming that this was in fact Emmanuel, the right driver, they got in and the man, smiling, told them to buckle up.

Some alert or another set Cort’s phone to vibrating in his pocket, but he ignored it. He was content to stare out the window at the city as they drove, and lose himself in his thoughts for a while.

Cort had always liked Boston, despite having only lived in his apartment for a little over three years. He found the city to be clean, and enjoyed that it didn’t quite reek of piss as much as some of the bigger ones did. Sure, the rent was absolutely outrageous, and a lot of the people could be aggressive and standoffish, but it was a place which felt as natural to him as breathing.

His job was fairly mind-numbing, but it paid the bills, and he was getting by, despite living alone, or perhaps because of it. And really, nowadays, did anyone like their job?

Dusk crept over the brightly lit office buildings across the Charles river, and the view was postcard perfect. Even with all the craziness with Katie going missing, Cort was enjoying his week, despite it being only Wednesday.

He’d always enjoyed the summer, probably run off from when he was a kid. Summer meant freedom: meant fun in the sun, bikinis, and doing stupid shit you hoped wouldn’t lead to lasting injury or a short, stern talking to by the cops. Summer meant food that would likely give you a spare tire, and perhaps a drunken hook up with someone who never called you back even after you’d left several messages.

Cort had grown up in the suburbs roughly twenty minutes outside of Boston. His father was of Mexican descent, and his mother was Irish. His mom always liked to joke that it was a role reversal of sorts, as she’d know a lot of Latino women who got hitched to Irish men. Of course, come to that, his mother didn’t always exercise the most tact when it came to discussing…well, anything, really.

He was glad his parents still got along, despite the divorce. Thankfully, they’d stuck out the marriage until Cort had graduated from college. Well, thankfully for him. The holidays were difficult, but he understood, and still loved and got along with both of his parents the way they still loved and got along with each other.

“We’re here,” Scott said.

Cort pulled himself out of the past, back to the present.

“Let’s go see if Abie’s home,” Scott said, and they exited the sedan and waved back at Emmanuel as he drove off.


“Come on in, guys.”

Abie’s place was small, but it was cozy. She made them tea, and offered them Girl Scout cookies, which Cort declined due to a diet he was more or less failing to adhere to already. Scott grabbed a handful of cookies, and Abie deposited the box back in the kitchen, then grabbed a stack of papers, and handed them over to Scott.

“What are these?” Scott asked.

“I screen-grabbed some posts on Facebook and Twitter before Katie deleted them.”

“Jesus…these are fucking horrendous,” Scott said.

Scott handed Cort a page of Facebook posts.


“Holy Christ,” Cort said.

He read further.


“I can’t read any more of this shit right now,” Cort said, thrusting the papers back to Abie.

“Oh, it’s really wretched stuff. Katie loved animals. I’m telling you, that’s not Katie,” Abie said.

“Did she have any mental illness in her family?” Scott asked.

“No. Both of her parents are still around, in their eighties. Both sharp as tacks, neither one had any obvious mental stuff. I mean, her dad gets anxious sometimes, but not enough that he ever needed treatment. I’m telling you, I’ve been friends with Katie since middle school. She’s as stable as they get.”

They sat in silence, neither of them willing to speak first. Finally, Cort broke the silence.

“Do you think she actually did this stuff?”

“I honestly don’t know,” Abie said, and ran her hand through her auburn hair, a nervous gesture.

“Shouldn’t we call the cops?” Cort asked.

“Already did, and they can’t find her. Also, you know, they got more to worry about than a fully grown woman who might just be in a motel on drugs for all they know.”

“Did she do drugs?” Scott asked.

“No. She’d have a drink every once and awhile, smoked pot a few times in college, but that was it,” Katie said.

“So do you think there was any sort of trigger that set her off? Anything really stressful she’s been going through?” Cort said.

“No. She loved her job, she was single but had been seeing a new guy, and they seemed to really be hitting it off.”

Abie stood, made her way to the window, as if the sight of human beings was too much for her at the moment. She stood with her back to them, and stared out at the street.

“I just keep thinking how she told me she got that computer virus.”

She turned back to face them, slowly.

“That’s ludicrous, right? There’s no possible way something you see on the internet can make you go insane, right?”

Cort got up his nerve, and grabbed another paper, this one with a list of tweets. He scanned down to the last one on the page, and felt the temperature in the room drop twenty degrees.


To be continued
August 13th, 2016.

Announcing Sean M. Thompson’s “The Demon”


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The Conqueror Weird is trying out something new – a monthly serial.

Sean M. Thompson (whose story “LillyBridge” was written for our Month of Bartlett) pitched us an idea for a twelve month serial entitled The Demon. We gladly accepted this proposition and, I may say, I am very excited to see the response. The Demon is a powerfully creepy yarn and is possibly Mr. Thompson’s finest work to date.

An installment of the serial will be posted on the 13th of every month, meaning it’ll run from tomorrow (July 13th, 2016) to July 13th, 2017.

Raised by feral cats in the wilderness of central Massachusetts, Sean M. Thompson writes fiction to frighten and enrage the normals. When he isn’t bathing in the blood of the innocent, he co-hosts the podcast Miskatonic Musings, and (very rarely) updates his blog, found here.

I met Sean, along with many others, at this past ReaderCon. I attended from Friday to Sunday and had a fantastic time – met Sean, Gemma Files, Nathan Ballingrud, John Langan, S.J. Bagley, Tom Breen, Michael Wehunt, Justin Steele, Mike Griffin, Livia Llewellyn, Ellen Datlow, Simon Strantzas, Paul Tremblay, Michael Kelly, and an innumerable amount of others I couldn’t name in one sitting. (I also, of course, met the inimitable Matthew M. Bartlett again.) Many reviews are coming soon. I am back from hiatus and ready to rock!

Walpurgisnacht 2016: Month of Bartlett Conclusion


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Well, here it is! The final ceremony for the Month of Bartlett! Walpurgisnacht!

We had a great time. Some of my favorite people chipped in for posts, all of which floored me. Now for the conclusion.

I promised some big news, and hell, you’re getting it. But first…my review of all of Matthew M. Bartlett’s work. THEN you get the big announcement. If you can’t wait, skip to the end. But if you can, then I suggest you enjoy some pleasurable suspense.



(as of April 2016)



Gateways to Abomination

You’re browsing on Amazon, looking for some quality, indie weird fiction. As you do this you stumble across a rather interesting book with very positive reviews. You read a few, and though they are quite favorable, you read two words that inherently evoke suspicion: “self-published”. So much self-published trash these days. But S.P. Miskowski, Scott R. Jones, Michael Wehunt, and Kristi DeMeester all gave it five-star ratings. You scroll back up and get a better look at the cover.

It’s of a town or a city, pleasant urban buildings nestled together amidst suburban touches of shrubbery. Quite nice, really, except there’s something strange – the buildings seem to be a collage of sorts, simple drawings crudely cut out of paper. The cover seems to be weathered, too, worn and used. A pulpy caption towards the bottom advertises sensational diabolism, next to a rather interesting logo reading “GARE OCCULT”. You see naught of this. It’s just a city. Except for a rather strange figure – but its hard to see what that is.

But no, not just a city – a dark shape looms above. It looks to be a radio antenna. But surely it is too large! Why, the largest building is not half its height!

And then you see the goat. It’s almost the same color as the background, so its difficult, but you make it out. Four-horned, smugly smiling, watching over the city with red scribble eyes. The figure near the city is the goat as well, now with a human body, welcoming you to the dark.

That cover art is by Katie Saulnier. That weathered, worn design and occult logo is by Tom Pappalardo. And that book is Gateways to Abomination by Matthew M. Bartlett.

It is quite difficult to categorize this book. The cover reads “Collected Short Fiction”, but I often refer to it as an episodic novel, though even this seems inaccurate. The book consists of pieces bordering on what you might call flash fiction, short-short pieces that read like fractured nightmares. But all share a loose connective tissue that ties them together.

There is a small suburb in Massachusetts named Leeds. And things have gone terribly wrong.

Take the opening piece, “the woods in fall” (all titles are in lowercase), only two and a half pages and not even the shortest in the book. A man is listening to his radio when the cat dials it all the way to the left. Something he hears makes him walk into the woods, where he meets a withered figure who promptly vomits worms. It’s strange and disorienting, yet it manages to sum up all of the connected elements of the book – Leeds, the woods, and the dark radio station WXXT.

Most pieces are the length of “the woods in fall”, if not shorter, with only a few delving into longer territory, but all of them – all of them – manage to punch you in the gut. Take “the ballad of nathan whiteshirt” – it’s only a little over one page, and still managed to be one of the most unnerving reading experiences of my life. Part of this is because of Bartlett’s language. One of the most poetic writers working today, Bartlett manages to make the words ooze off the page and infiltrate your senses. Some reviewers have described getting sick while they read the pieces, the most infamous being “the theories of uncle jeb”, where the titular uncle opens his cancerous navel to let onlookers see inside.

I AM Cancer, he’d intone, and he’d grasp the folds of his stomach, gaping wide his navel, which was never properly tied off (according to Father), stretching it wide, a hole you could pop a child’s head into (if you were of a mind), and the smell was low tide and sprawling arrays of fungus sprouting in the folds of a field of mildewed clothing, of dank basements and bile-strangled wells, carrion and the faeces of the squatting dead.

That is quite nauseating, as is “a world of lucretias and ledas”, where the narrator, Jebediah Blackstye, stares at the streaks in his long black stools.

The stories are interrupted by disturbing news transmissions from “Uncle Red”, who describes all sorts of grisly phenomena in the Leeds/Northampton area. Through these segments and others we learn that the dark influence of WXXT, a witch-cult who have gone to radio, has gone back to at least 1802, and quite probably earlier.

“the ballad of ben stockton” parts one and two describe a visit to the dentist gone horribly wrong. This one in particular is likely to unnerve anyone, as it goes right for the jugular of mutual discomfort. “when i was a boy – a broadcast” describes a young boy’s lust for a corpulent older woman, feeling almost painfully personal and disturbing. “the arrival” parts one and two – presented in reverse – introduce that goatish creature we saw on the cover, the sinister Ben Stockton, who carries an overwhelmingly oppressive air of menace about him. “the gathering in the deep woods” follows a man attending the titular gathering, while “cat-tails and rushes” describes the wreckage after an overwhelming fire. “the investigator” hints at a fascinating plot-line – WXXT’s battle with the F(ederal) C(ommunications) C(ommission), who will stop at nothing to end the witch-cult’s reign of terror.

Bartlett has an eye for the most upsetting images in literature – a dog with multiple and grotesque breasts, drowned men reclining in bathwater, two men grappling over a hook of meat – and yet there’s a darkly comic element to it. There are actual moments where you’ll laugh out loud, which makes the whole thing more unnerving. WXXT twists everything around it, and that doesn’t only include the book. It twists you, the reader, transforming your perception into an ungrounded nightmare.

It’s only appropriate, then, that the collection should end with “the reddening dusk”. Like the opening piece, it captures the essence of the book, but in a slightly different way. While “the woods in fall” was more of a  quiet horror story, “the reddening dusk” is a delirious fever-dream, rupturing the surface of reality into sheer horror. Reading it was almost a guilty experience for me, heightened by the fact that I enjoyed it so much.

As you can see, it has been difficult for me to form my thoughts on this into a coherent post. But know this – Gateways to Abomination is a terrifying experience of a book. I was literally disoriented after reading the book. It’s a masterpiece in any genre and it deserves your applause.

What – another book? That’s exciting…

Buy Gateways to Abomination here. Not “You can buy it” – BUY IT. I have no words to describe how completely freaking awesome it is, which is why this review was so disorderly. How could anything be better than this? How do you follow something like this up?



Gateways to Abomination floored me, but…Creeping Waves. WOW. I knew it was going to be good, but I never expected something like this.

First, you’ve got that Nick Gucker cover. Nick Gucker! Illustrator of gross and drippy phenomena! He doesn’t disappoint here. Look at all of the disgusting, Bartlettian phenomena – a ossuary WXXT booth, dancing embryos playing with a hanged man (this one is out of view, as its cut off by the spine), a man wrangling worms, a black Satanic snake, Ben Stockton beckoning a child whose mouth is crammed with tiny teeth…all under the landscape of a distorted fair, clownish monoliths rearing up to the sky. Holy hell.

Nathan Ballingrud provides a beautiful introduction, describing how Bartlett burst onto the scene and how he’s back with a vengeance in Creeping Waves. But, as wonderful as it is, it doesn’t even begin to cover the contents.

The book opens with an eerie prologue narrated by Ben Stockton, reminiscing on the genesis of WXXT and covering some ground for those who haven’t read Gateways to Abomination. It is followed by “Spring Thaw”, a short, creepy piece that hints at the horror to come. But the real fun begins with “Rampage”. It’s a dark story. A really, really dark story – one that seems to take some concepts from “path” (a story in Gateways) and warps them into a much more morbid idea. After “Rampage”, you’re doomed.

The book is much more intertwined than Gateways. The whole WXXT gang is back, and the FCC is still after them. What silly shenanigans will they get up to this time? Thematic elements from “Spring Thaw” are woven through the contents. A certain narrative – one about a faded cult leader named Vernon Golden – is serialized throughout the book, along with Anne Gare’s Rare Book and Ephemera Catalogue (discussed in the Companions section). There are sequels, prequels, references and opening chapters. Old ideas are elaborated upon, and new ideas rise along with them.

The book is considerably longer than Gateways, so I’ll focus on the more traditional narratives, the first of which is “Master of Worms”. A dark story about a twisted family patriarch, Bartlett starts off restrained before delving into unbridled surrealism. The opening scene is one of the most shocking things I have ever read.

Next up is “Night Dog”. Wow. This has to be one of the scariest stories in the book. A man named Wendell, working at the ominous Annelid Industries International, has his world turned upside down – no – has his world puréed in a goddamn blender by a strange man who proclaims horrifying revelations as the company meeting approaches. There were times during this story when I was thinking “No, no, NO” as things went from bad to worse to hopeless. Probably my favorite of the longer narratives.

Then “Rangel”, the next longer narrative, comes along. I think it’s safe to assume that this is Bartlett’s most successful story – it’s in the contents of the Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume Three (ed. Simon Strantzas, series ed. Michael Kelly) and was considered by Ellen Datlow for her latest volume of the Best Horror of the Year. Not only that – originally published as a chapbook by Dim Shores (with creepy illustrations by Aeron Alfrey), it sold out of not one but two limited editions. Reading it, one can certainly see why. I’m not going to talk too much about the plot, but instead I’ll just say this: Halloween parade in Leeds. Something to see! This was my introduction to Bartlett, and look where I am now – reviewing all of his work…

“The Egg” is a deliciously nasty tale, probably one of Bartlett’s most brutal compositions to date. A family is raising chickens – they wanted pets, and chickens were just the best fit for them – and decides to leave the radio on for their comfort. Life lesson: chickens + WXXT = bad news. My description makes it sound almost comical, but trust me, “The Egg” is anything but – and it features one of the cruelest endings in literature.

“Little Leeds” isn’t that long, but I wanted to pause on it because…well, you’ll see. Bartlett has a story coming out soon that ties very smoothly into this, and…well, I don’t want to spoil the fun. A rebellious girl joins a group of teens in the woods. Needless to say, things get very strange very fast.

“The Purging of My Uncle’s House (The Time of the Black Tents)” is a continuation of “the sons of ben” from Gateways to Abomination. This tells of a grim family reunion in an old, secluded house, while some sort of dark ritual takes place outside in the woods. Dripping with mystery and terror, this is a highlight story in the book – and it also brings up more questions about the “Real Leeds”, a ominous location referred to throughout the book.

The exploits of Vernon Golden creep through the book. A bygone leader of a forgotten cult, he contacts the son of a couple who once were amongst his followers, telling him that he needs help fighting the devil in Massachusetts. Of course, nothing is quite as it seems, and the plot takes frantic twists and turns in a delightfully dark form.

The real climax to the book is “Baal Protects the King” (parts one and two). I honestly cannot bring myself to describe this story, and, to be honest, I don’t know if I even really could. It’s a onyx goblet brimming with blood, a raging hurricane of nightmarish imagery and haunting ideas. Its intensely disturbing scenery will stay with you for days after you read it.

Creeping Waves is, as of this date, Bartlett’s masterpiece. It’s…it’s…it’s the best thing ever. It’s the most distressing reading experience I’ve ever had. It’s dark, it’s devilish, and it’s disturbing.

I really can’t describe it better than that.

Buy Creeping Waves here on Amazon and here direct from Muzzleland Press, the publisher.


Dead Air

I’m not gonna spend too long on Dead Air since it’s no longer available to the public. Let’s just say that before Gateways and Creeping Waves, Bartlett published a book that reads like an embryotic version of both. It’s extremely rare and hard to find, but I suggest you try to track it down – it’s a treasure. While some pieces are recycled into the newer collections, most of it is basically new, and boy, is it a disturbing book. Since it is an older book, certain characters are almost radically different – Ben Stockton, for example, is more…human than his powerful, demonic contemporary. It also features many eerie photographs, some of which are found in Creeping Waves. But I digress – it’s an excellent book, but I shan’t taunt you with an unavailable book.



witch cult

The Witch-Cult in Western Massachusetts features thirteen one-page entries, each about a dark figure who turns to occult forces. Not all of them have to do with Leeds, but the ones that do expand upon the WXXT mythology. For example – we learn more about old Anne Gare, who runs an ominous bookshop in the twisted town, while we also learn about Virginia Willaby, whose charming home was host to a horrifying event known as “Black Thanksgiving”. It also features absolutely gorgeous illustrations by artist Alex Fienemann, each depicting the witch in question. All of these creepy contents are thus wrapped up into a lovely-looking book, and is a must-own for fans of New England folklore (even though there are no actual folktales contained herein). I would find it hard to imagine that anyone wouldn’t enjoy this book.

Buy The Witch-Cult in Western Massachusetts here.


Anne Gare

Now sold out, this book contains several descriptions of evil tomes that Anne Gare possesses. Most of this material can be found in Creeping Waves, but some entries cannot, while Creeping Waves has some new entries of its own. Highlights include the Libellus Vox Larva, which, I think its safe to say, is the Necronomicon of Bartlett’s work; the Stockton Pamphlets, which detail the sinister activities of a colonial Leeds coven; and The Barkerton Parade and Others, a collection of shockingly violent horror stories. Some entries feature snide commentary by the cataloger – presumably Gare herself – which provides some humor amidst the darkness. Overall, a fantastic book. (As if you didn’t know I was going to say that.)


SPETTRINI (chapbook; limited ed.)


A KrallCon 2016 exclusive (though the story will appear in The Stay-Awake Men and Others, a collection coming this December), “Spettrini” focuses on the mysterious disappearence of the titular magician, and what his apprentice does in his absence. Sort of. I don’t think I really described that right, but the story is astounding in its execution. The standout here is how well Bartlett utilizes his descriptive powers. The atmosphere broods from the opening lines, and the setting is so strongly established that you can practically feel the cold night breeze. Since it was an exclusive it got a limited distribution, but I’m excited to see what people think about it when it’s included in the collection. It’s a fantastic story.

CARNOMANCER, OR THE MEAT MANAGER’S PREROGATIVE (Xnoybis #1, ed. Jordan Krall; limited ed.)

A grisly excursion into lust, murder, and meat, “Carnomancer, or the Meat Manager’s Prerogative” (also to be collected in The Stay-Awake Men and Others) follows a man who, working at a convenience store, gets entangled in the madness of the meat manager, Foxcroft. This is one of the nastiest stories I’ve ever read. It’s gruesome and dark – a gross look into the mindscape of a man who needs serious help. In a horrifyingly funny way, the story ends on an almost comical note – closing the story’s warped plotline, though the images and concepts will haunt the reader for a long time afterward.

FOLLOWING YOU HOME (The Siren’s Call eZine #20: Screams in the Night; available online here)

A super-short story, “Following You Home” crams more ideas into its meager two pages then some manage to weave into novels. Merrill, a socially awkward man at an uncomfortable New Year’s Eve party, leaves early, only to be stalked by a frightening figure indeed on his way home. Reminiscent of the best Ramsey Campbell stories, “Following You Home” features a realistic protagonist, a grotesque monster, and a terrifying ending that leaves the reader wondering.

MACHINE WILL START WHEN YOU ARE START (Resonator, ed. Scott R. Jones; available here)

Elaborating on “From Beyond”, this hilariously gross story tells of a creep working at Target who buys the “Tillinghast Masturbator” for sexual pleasure. Unfortunately, the results are kind of alien, and – against the box’s badly misspelled warnings – the guy starts to watch some porn to help along. This does not turn out to well for him. Like “Carnomancer, or the Meat Manager’s Prerogative”, the story ends comically – this time with a practical punchline, a genuinely funny ending that juxtaposes nicely with the earlier gruesome imagery.


…the big announcement…the one you’ve all been waiting for…

The Conqueror Weird is producing a full-length audio drama based on Matthew M. Bartlett’s critically acclaimed book Gateways to Abomination. Yes, you heard that right. It’ll be an audio book of sorts – a weird amalgam of readings, dramatizations, sound effects, and music.

The cast includes Andrew LemanSean BranneySean M. ThompsonJose CruzJonathan RaabSam Cowan, Matthew M. Bartlett, Brian O’Connell, and more. The production will feature a gorgeous original cover by acclaimed artist Michael Bukowski, along with interior artwork by Yves Tourigny, Dave Felton, and more.

You can listen to a sample track here, read by Sean M. Thompson.

Trailers are on the way, as is the cover. Gateways to Abomination is expected to be released by the Conqueror Weird’s record label, Moloch House, sometime in the summer of next year.

That’s all for the Month of Bartlett, leeches. More transmissions coming soon.

Matthew M. Bartlett Portrait

A portrait of Matthew M. Bartlett and his cat Larry by the inimitable Dave Felton, done especially for the Conqueror Weird.

I’m not quite done yet. Just a few tidbits.

In May I’ll be reviewing these books:

  • Greener Pastures by Michael Wehunt
  • The Lure of the Devouring Light by Michael Griffin
  • Orford Parish Murder Houses by Tom Breen
  • Tomorrow’s Cthulhu, edited by Scott Gable and C. Dombrowski
  • Cthulhu Lies Dreaming, edited by Salomé Jones
  • A double Scott Nicolay review: Noctuidae and The Croaker
  • The Operating Theater by Christopher Ropes
  • A double review of Cody Goodfellow’s Rapture of the Deep and The Free School
  • The Nameless Dark by T.E. Grau

Also, my first published story, “Woodland”, appeared yesterday in The Yellow Booke, Vol. Three, edited by Michael Kellermeyer. You can read it for free online here, but I hope you consider buying a paperback copy from Amazon here. It’d mean a lot.

“Woodland” is an unusual story. Written entirely in second person, present tense (even though there are a lot of flashbacks) and heavily inspired by the Bob Dylan song “Ballad of Hollis Brown”. It hints at some things that are coming. I hope you enjoy it (if you read it).

That’s all for now.

“LillyBridge” by Sean M. Thompson


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by Sean M. Thompson
(warning – adult content)

I’m not sure what compels me to visit “Shimmyin’ Shirley’s”. Not normally one of those guys who likes to go to strip clubs. Hell, I’m not even from Western Massachusetts. Just down this way for a business conference. Why my company insisted on holding it at a Marriott in the middle of fucking nowhere is beyond me.

I’m driving down a barely lit road, flanked on either side by dense forest, when I see the pink, neon sign. There’s an incredibly lewd caricature of a woman shaking her prodigious, neon boobs in the glaring light. Even as I’m pulling the car into the lot I’m wondering, what am I doing?

An impressively greasy biker bouncer (who smells like stale cigarettes and meth) informs me that I’m “in for a treat, pal, we got our finest herky-jerky women things on the pole tonight.” He slaps my shoulder with a meaty palm, and I’m not successful quelling my cry of alarm. I don’t like the way his pupils dilate when I flinch.

“Woah! Jumpy fella, ain’t ya? Well, the girly-whirlies will fix ya right up, yesiree.”

Nameless biker freak #3 walks me into the club, and I’m assaulted by a powerful, malingering stench: something like low tide mixed with piles of burning tires. There’s another stink below I can’t place.

Strobe lights flash to and fro, as what I can only describe as a mix of dubstep and polka thunders out of speakers, tied at sporadic intervals with what appears to be a mixture of rope made from human hair intertwined with snakeskin, and used condoms.

I belly up to the bar, and an enormous albino woman asks me “What’s your poison?”

There’s a blacklight running the length of the dusty bottles behind the bartender, and I swear one of them has a leech floating in it.

When I squint, I see all manner of foul stains along her taut, cotton tank top, and more lit on her alabaster skin, on top of crude cartoonish tattoos of goats, witches, and, strangely enough, one of The Pope.

“Uh, just a beer, imported if you have it,” I say, trying to be nonchalant, and failing.

The bartender makes a face like I just told her I stabbed her uncle, and hands me a chipped glass, with a faded, photo realistic picture of a cat’s face on it, filled with foamy suds.

“Only thing imported here is Svetnanya,” she says, then belches.

“That sounds like a made up Russian name,” I half-heartedly mutter, but the bartender’s already turned her massive back to me, and has snatched a bottle of whiskey off the bar, which she proceeds to glug with the finesse of an established alcoholic as she stomps away.

I take my beer (god I hope it’s a beer) to a small table by the stage. The club only has three other patrons, which stands to reason as it’s a Sunday night.

There’s an anorexic looking guy in plaid pajama pants, and one of those winter hats with the ear flaps, putting a dollar into the swamp green g-string of a wrinkly older woman, who legitimately looks like she’s seventy if she’s a day. This geriatric’s pendulous breasts are sweeping against ear-flaps slack-jawed face, and I retch a little. Yet, I don’t leave, and frankly, my lack of action alarms me.

Why am I still in here? I wonder. This establishment is the very definition of disgusting.

And yet, I’m strangely drawn to the grotesqueries of the scene.

A blonde guy, with a tan and surfer shorts is getting a lap dance from a bald woman wearing a zebra print vest, who, on closer examination, is missing her two front teeth, and appears to be cross-eyed. She twirls nipple tassels made from worms hot glued on. I down my oh-please-be-beer in a frantic gulp, and the stirrings in my loins alarm me to no end.

There’s an incredibly strong woman, with a bright red mullet, chewing on snuff, feeling up a stripper in a, well, in some kind of pale leather bikini. Shades of Ed Gein float into my noggin’, which I will away.

“Boy howdy, take my money Misty Muck!” strong mullet yells, then whoops and hollers.

Misty gyrates, shoving her crotch into the strong woman’s face. When the dancer’s countenance is visible, I recoil, knocking over my empty glass.

Misty has no eyes. Shoved into the empty sockets are twigs, and rocks.

Someone grabs my shoulder, and I scream.

“Wait until you see LillyBridge,” biker-bouncer whispers in my ear, and his hot breath so close sends slivers of ice down my spine. The strobes have me seizurous, and the smell has me whoozy.

All the lights shut off at once, and “Shirley’s” is dark as the heart of a death row sociopath. I feel things slither over my bluchers; big, undulating creatures in the dark. Hear my fellow patrons whispering in excitement, moaning in pleasure, and underneath this noise, a thrum, as of a high powered generator.

All at once, a spotlight hits the main stage, and a funeral dirge, with a little bass to it thumps out of the speakers.

“Coming to the stage we have the Empress of Ice Cream, she who was old when the world was young. The gal so nice she got to live twice. Revel in her form, for it is the shape of your damnation. Your screams are useless in this place, so it’s utter folly to attempt to cry for help, or to try to escape. Your filthy hands aren’t worthy of her dirty pillows, nor the juice in her caboose. Sanity is but a memory before the majesty of her terrible machinations. Welcome, LiiiiiiiiillllllllllyBriiiiiiiiiiiiiiidge.”

She must be twelve feet tall, wearing a bra and panties made of human faces, tanned and stretched. I trace the rigid muscle of her calves up to her thighs, gravity backflips, and suddenly she’s either on the ceiling, or I am. She grinds against a pole made of human spines, melted together. The strobes mask her expression, momentarily shadow her teeth, which are large, and sharp, in the pulse of the new light. She blows a kiss at me, and her foetid breath makes my body grow weak. I can easily smell her from ten feet away. I slump from my chair, and either fall to the floor, or jump onto the ceiling. LillyBridge tosses her face-bra at me, and I kick like a thrashing lunatic.

LillyBridge, oh LillyBridge, we dug a very deep, deep ditch,” the DJ sings, and the rest of the club takes up the tune.

In unison they all sing “You crawled back out, we’re all finished, oh Lilly, Lilly, LillyBridge.”

And I’m laughing now, can’t stop laughing, and LillyBridge dances her way off the stage, in my direction. The flock of perverts around me sing the round louder, and louder still, until their voices boom over the thumping death-bass.

We’re all finished, oh, LILLY, LILLY, LILLYBRIDGE!

The giantess picks me up, and her body is festooned in dirt. She lifts me close to her face, and I see her hair is filled with wriggling maggots. She licks my cheek, and her tongue is long and black: a giraffe’s tongue, rotted beyond death.

LillyBridge whispers in my ear in an ancient rasp –

“They tried to bury me, but you can’t keep a good woman down. They always need someone to dance to the tunes they play, the songs they sing, on WXXT. Leeds appreciates a good woman, a strong woman. I’m one of the oldest, of dirt and rot, and the things that live deep under the world are my children. Everyone wants a good screw, and little man, after you meet me – ”

Her tongue jams into my ear, deep, deep, my eyes roll back, my vision greys.

“You’re screwed,” she purrs, and bursts into a cackle which sets me twitching.

I kick, try to loosen her vice grip, but she’s too strong, and I can feel consciousness slipping away, though I’m pitching a tent in my business slacks. And still the chorus screams the words to the song, as Lillybridge rubs me along her grave-mud-caked body, and her tongue finally slithers out of my ear, to snake its way down my pants, and the other dancers gyrate demonaically, and far off behind the stage flames crackle, and long for flesh.

“We can wait forever for you, lover,” Lillybridge whispers, as I feel blood bubble out of my eyes, ears, and nose, and my spine spasms as her foul appendage laps me to climax. I scream until my voice is nothing but a tinny rasp, as she thunders with laughter, the rest of the club dancing around us in a circle, hands entwined.

“Oblivion is only a lap dance away, and even when you leave, you’re never really gone. We take a piece of you, as payment, an offering to our humble little establishment.”

The strobes flash faster, and the dancers peel off their skin; toss it onto their clientele, and my brain feels as if it’s boiling, ready to leak out my ears. I shake, and shudder, and Lillybridge smiles real wide, exposing bits of human skin lodged in her enormous, crimson-stained, sharp teeth, exposing gums rotted and purple.

“Now, let’s have some real fun,” she says, and moans loudly, as funeral bells chime the end through the speakers.

And…heaven help me…it’s excruciating bliss.

Raised by feral cats in the wilderness of central Massachusetts, Sean M. Thompson writes fiction to frighten and enrage the normals. When he isn’t bathing in the blood of the innocent, he co-hosts the podcast Miskatonic Musings, and updates his blog, found here.

“A Voice in the Static” by Clint Hale


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“A Voice in the Static”
by Clint Hale

These last few nights, while drifting off to sleep in my warm bed, I’ve woken suddenly to find myself, once again, in Leeds, MA. There is a strange sort of darkness to that place, and the air itself seems alive with pulsing static. If I listen closely, perhaps leaning into the cab of a long-abandoned truck within the black forest, and press my ear to the cold plastic of a speaker, I can hear something within that static. It fades and buzzes and I worry what it might wake within the lightless wood. Eventually I hear a man, speaking ominously of salvation through plague, a drone of sonorous percussion layered beneath his lulling voice. In time – minutes, moments, eternities – I realize the static is no longer coming from the speaker. Instead, it is coming from the direction of a soft, glowing light swelling to life among the trees. The voice in the static is speaking my name, and enveloped in an unknowable accumulation of imperceptible radio waves, I begin to walk.


Matthew Bartlett is a man with a message. He knows well that words themselves are inert, dead things; incapable of movement and life until a skilled hand comes along and fashions them into something worthy of being read. In that respect, he has already proven himself to be a more than capable wordsmith. He has a keen eye for knowing just how much to divulge in his fiction, and a staggering ability to paint the grotesque in a hypnotically beautiful light. His message is unique and affecting, one that expertly couples the visceral with the psychological. And at the very heart of this message – this communicable view of a world always in the process of decay – are his characters: people shaped by the shadows that encroach on their tiny lives; people who breathe the dank, sodden odor of unreality; people emotionally encumbered by a definite lack of something. These multifaceted individuals are what allow the strange events in his stories to feel possible, despite their inherent impossibility; indeed, the whole of Gateways to Abomination is an example of that very process of sublimation in action. Whether through raw sensuality or a subtlety attuned to their individual temperament, Bartlett’s characters act as a conduit for his carefully constructed message to be transmitted.

I will admit that the Man from Leeds was not on my radar until well after the release of Gateways. I was not there at the beginning, witnessing his momentous rise out of the overwhelming muck of self-published authors. But word travels fast around the campfire of the Weird, and soon his name was on the lips of many a respected author. So here we are, paying tribute to a writer staggeringly talented yet unassuming. A man who can craft nightmares you’ll want to relive, and take you to a town you’ll never want to leave. His prose is lyrical and effortless, and despite his often grisly subject matter it is always written with passion and a finely-tuned attention to detail. His plots, though surreal and bewildering, are never out of place in his careful hands. Though the future is often bleak for those in his tales, the same cannot be said for the author himself. As far as I’m concerned this is only the beginning for him, and I can’t wait to see where he takes us next.

But you already knew all that. You’ve read his work, experienced his purposefully fragmented insight. You’ve traversed his mental landscape, seen the grey men in grey coats with grey faces. You’ve heard the transmissions, the whispers that sound like rain. You’re a receiver now, the end result of a signal sounding through a forest made dark by more than just the absence of light. The only thing left to do now is follow the voice in the static.

Clint Hale is a writer of short fiction and the editor of the Dark of Things.