The Noble Horror Film Festival (2018)

A new Twitter challenge cropped up recently. Even though these are dime a dozen (favorite horror novels! Favorite horror movies! Video games! Music!) one popped out that I’ve never seen before! Here’s a link to the offending Tweet here.

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It’s a unique challenge: If you could craft an all-night horror film festival, what would it look like? It got me thinking. I recently saw John Carpenter’s ‘Halloween’ on the big screen for the first time, and was so happy I could barely stand it. Seeing a classic that like on the screen not only reinforced the power of a classic like this, it always made me want to see more of my favorites up on the cinema screen. You’ve got your soda and the candy you snuck in is snug in your pocket. The lights dim. The first movie is starting…

7 P.M: The Nun (2018)

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“Why are we starting with ‘The Nun’!?”, you shout at the screen in rage. Why would Logan do this to us!? Okay. I want to kick off with something new, and something fun, and most importantly, something really stupid. Listen. ‘The Nun’ is not a great movie. But it had some big scares in it and I love the creepy-monastery-in-Romania vibe. It’s the perfect movie to kick off this festival with.

9 P.M: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

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One movie down. You’re still primed. It’s almost Halloween everybody! And what better way to celebrate than with a little bit of Freddy in your life. ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors’ is as good as Freddy ever got. Sure, I love the original maybe more, but this is a long night of spooky movies. Let’s keep the energy high. That’s why this one gets a prime time slot.

11 P.M: Scream (1996)

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A real and true crowd-pleaser to take us through the Witching Hour. ‘Scream’ is a favorite of mine for many reasons. It still feels fresh, the kills still feel brutal, and the script positively screams. ‘Scream’ is a classic through and through.

1 A.M: Ghostbusters (1984)

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Cats and dogs, living together… You know the rest. This is your wake up movie! Let Ray Parker Jr. fill you with wonderful Halloween energy. Slimer. Stay-Puff! ‘Ghostbusters’ is a stinkin’ classic man.

3 A.M: The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

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Drew Godard and Joss Whedon do an old cliché so much good. ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ is fun and meta. It’s a horror movie made for horror fans. From bargain bin versions of our favorite monsters (and one or two surprises) this one is a breath of fresh slasher air. We’re in the home stretch. Two to go. And they are some of the biggest of the night…

5 A.M: Suspiria (1977)

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A stone cold weird classic. Giallo can be powerful, and this witchy, Alice in Wonderful marvel is everything you could want for a long October night. ‘Suspiria’ would look absolutely break-taking on the big screen.

7 A.M: Halloween (1978)

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THE October movie. As vital to the season as apple cider and pumpkins. It’s the perfect ending to a night of new and old horror classics. You can see influences from this movie in every single one on this list (save for ‘Suspiria’). Let Carpenter’s perfect score end this night of frights.

The film festival is over. Stumble out to your car in the new daylight, tired but smiling. You’ve won. And now for the sequel…

Maybe next year?

Author Interview: Orrin Grey

It’s finally October and that means it’s time for this month’s Author Interview! Every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. This month I’ll be talking to horror fiction’s favorite skeleton Orrin Grey.

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Hello Orrin and happy (28 days from now) Halloween! I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy autumnal schedule to have a quick chat with me. I’d like to start with an easy question: What made you want to be a writer? What turned you into the skeleton you are today?

I’ll be completely honest and say that I don’t know what originally made me want to be a writer. For as long as I can remember, it’s all I ever wanted to do. My mom had this book where she kept my report cards and class photos and stuff from all my years of elementary school, and for every grade it had a space where I could write what I wanted to be when I grew up. From about third grade on all it ever said was, “writer.”

That said, a lot of different things formed the specific writer that I am now. I went through various phases when I was younger, writing fanfic, trying (and failing) to write big epic fantasy sagas, all that jazz. I know that reading Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber was a turning point for me, in part because it was a very different kind of writing than I had read before then, and the zest with which he mixed and matched genre tropes was thrilling to me at the time.

Of course, I’m known by now for writing about and around film quite a bit. I’ve always loved movies, but I didn’t get into the older horror films that have become some of my chief influences until after I had graduated from college. When I was a kid, though, I used to have these Crestwood House Monster Books, which some readers may remember. They were little board books that I would check out from my school library, filled with black-and-white stills from old monster movies of the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. I used to pore over those things obsessively, mentally conjuring the movies that I imagined went with those images.

Probably the biggest turning point for me was getting into Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comics. Here was someone who was doing so much of the stuff I wanted to be doing, who was bending and blending genres, telling numinous supernatural stories built around chewy pulp centers (and vice versa), but perhaps more importantly, who was wearing all of his influences on his sleeve, so that reading his stuff became a gateway to countless other writers, artists, movies, and more that have since become huge influences on my work. Mike Mignola tells a story in interviews about how reading Dracula made him realize that all he wanted to do was draw monsters. Reading his work did something similar for me, but I can’t draw, so here I am.

I love your work. Your stories find the perfect balance of cosmic horror and creepy beasties. ‘Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts’ should be made mandatory reading for all young ghouls and ghosts. I’ve heard tell that you have a new collection getting ready to come out. What can you tell me about it?

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Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales should actually be out by the time this sees print! It’s being released by Word Horde, the same publisher who put out Painted Monsters, and I’m extremely lucky to be working with Ross Lockhart again. He was an early booster of my stuff, and I owe a lot to his faith in me and my weird stories.

Guignol collects fourteen of my spooky tales, four of which have never seen print before. Of the ones that have, several are hard-to-find, out-of-print, or seldom seen, so I think it’ll be a treat Orrin Greyfor fans of my work. There are two novelettes in the book, “The Cult of Headless Men” and “The Lesser Keys” and I’m really excited for people to check it out. Like Painted Monsters, it draws a lot of influence from movies and the theater, and its title, in fact, comes from the one-two punch of the Theatre du Grand Guignol, an early French horror theatre known for its bloody and lurid plays, and “Contes Cruel,” both a subtype of horror story and the title of a couple of early collections of same.

Guignol is filled with more of the kind of stuff that readers have come to expect from me, but this is also possibly my grimmest collection to date. While I hesitate to call the stories in it cruel, they certainly aren’t kind. Painted Monsters had a sort of unintended thematic underpinning of death and what comes after, while Guignol is more about dealing with trauma, and how the past, especially the painful past, never entirely leaves us alone.

It also probably has more monsters per page than anything else I’ve ever written, so there’s always that.

You, like so many other awesome folk, love horror cinema. I’m sure you have all kinds of movies ready to go throughout this entire blessed month. As a fan of the genre, what are some of the movies you’ll be watching leading up to All Hallows’ Eve?

I live in the suburbs of Kansas City, and we’re lucky enough here to have a really passionate and active horror film community. We also have a great local theatre, in the form of the Screenland Armour, which does Halloween programming all month long in October, so I’m hoping to catch a lot of that. As part of the launch festivities for Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales, I’ll be presenting a free screening of Mario Bava’s Black Sunday on October 14, and every year the Nerds of Nostalgia podcast hosts a horror triple feature sometime around Halloween, which has become my annual birthday tradition.

Beyond that, I watch a lot more horror cinema than anything else all year long, but as the Halloween season rolls around I tend to gravitate even more toward the old classics. There’s a new Blu-ray release of some William Castle titles on its way that I’m really excited about. Like every other horror fan on the planet, I’ll be watching the new Halloween when it hits theatres, even if I am less sanguine about it than many of my peers. And I am really looking forward to Apostle, the new folk horror flick from Gareth Evans and Dan Stevens that’s coming to Netflix this month.

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A lot of young writers I talk to get discouraged with the grind (sending stories out on submission, etc.) and the constant struggle that is the publishing world. Do you have any advice for any writers looking to get published?

Maybe the best piece of advice I ever got in this business was, “Know your victory conditions.” Know what success looks like to you. It’s easy to lose focus when you’re in the proverbial mines, but if you can remember what it is you’re trying to accomplish, you can work towards it. For some people that means critical acknowledgement or winning awards, for some people that means getting a lot of fans or readers, for some people that means making a living at writing. For some it means something else completely. Those things aren’t mutually exclusive, you may get all of them, but if you know what’s important to you, it’ll help you make the hard decisions when they come, and keep you from getting turned around in the dark.

Also, don’t be in a hurry. It’s better to sell a few stories to good markets than a lot of stories to markets that no one will ever see. It’s better to wait a few years until you have a collection that’s really strong than to break out with a first collection too early.

Let’s talk about books for a minute. What’s in your TBR pile currently? Are there any stories/novels you like to read to get into the October spirit?

My TBR pile is so careeningly, terrifyingly cyclopean that it beggars belief, let alone description. I am so far behind on my reading that I barely know where to begin. That said, I recently finished Matthew M. Bartlett’s first collection (I had already read his later ones, but had missed the first) and, like all of his other work, it blew my mind. He is, for my money, one of the best authors working today, and I am always wowed by his stuff. I’ve got a gobsmackingly long list of stuff in my queue, but right now I’m trying to make my way through William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land, which, as I had been warned countless times, is a slog.

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Last  question: Where can people find your works?

Probably the best place is in one of my collections, which I will have three of by the time this sees print. Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings, my first collection, is now available in a deluxe hardcover from Strix Publishing, while Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts and Guignol& Other Sardonic Tales are both available from Word Horde or wherever better books are sold. You can keep up with me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and you can always find out the latest stuff I’m doing on my website. I have a few stories available online, as well, including a recent one at The Dark and several on PseudoPod.

 

Announcing: HUNTER, Coming October 23rd

You are the PREY. He is the HUNTER…

Big announcement! My first book, HUNTER, will be dropping on October 23rd! It’s a horror screenplay, written as a love letter to Halloween and all the beloved slashers from the 1970’s and 1980’s!

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It will be digital only for now (Kindle and Nook) with plans for physical sometime in the future. It will be available for $2.99, which the perfect price to enjoy this nice little slice of slasher horror. The cover art was made by the supremely talented SkinCube (website here!) There will also be a score that will come free with the book, created by a musician friend of mine named Christian Perry (more on that in the future!). I will have more to come on this (link and plot details!) when the release date gets a little closer.

 

7 Upcoming Books I’m Dying to Read

Happy Wednesday everybody!

We’re barreling toward the one-two-three punch of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and then Christmas. It’s a whirlwind of visits with the in-laws and extended family, awkward conversations with Grandma and some pretty decent food. The good news is that we have some downtime ahead. What better time than to read some books?

Here are 7 Upcoming Books I’m Dying to Read.

The Folio Anthology of Horror Stories edited by Ramsey Campbell

Out Now

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I may be cheating a bit (this came out last week), but this is the book that inspired this list. This is one of the most gorgeous horror anthologies I’ve ever seen. It houses a TOC that has some of the greatest horror stories ever printed. It’s also edited by the legendary Ramsey Campbell. This is a little more expensive than the other books on this list, but I 100% think it’s worth it. Just look at his thing!

By the Light of My Skull by Ramsey Campbell

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October 2018

Did somebody say living legend? No? Well I guess I’m saying it now then. Ramsey Campbell is a living legend in the horror field, a writer whose depth and skill never ceases to amaze me. When I was still a fledgling horror fanatic, I discovered his novels and short stories and was completely blown away. His new collection, released in a very snazzy looking hardcover from PS Publishing, collects some of his newer stories.

Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales by Orrin Grey

October 2nd, 2018

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A new book by horror fiction’s favorite skeleton-man is always a cause for celebration. Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts is one of my favorite collections ever, and I can trust Orrin Grey to bring his signature concoction of creepy monsters and spooky movies. Word Horde is one of the best indie publishers around, and this book will look great on my shelf come October 2nd.

In The Night Wood by Dale Bailey

October 9th, 2018

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I talked about this book back in March when I wrote an article much like this one. My excitement has not abated for this contempory fantasy novel. This book has a few of my favorite things: creepy woods, troubled writers and (I assume) folklore  horror. I can’t wait for this one to rock my socks right off.

In The House In The Dark Of The Woods by Laird Hunt

October 16th, 2018

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With a killer title and cover, when I saw this book I had to know what it was about. Turns out it’s about a Puritan woman being drawn into a dark journey. The summary describes almost-human wolves (!) and a ship made of human bone (!). This book sounds all kinds of bizarre and I am in 100%.

The Leaves of a Necronomicon edited by Joseph S. Pulver Sr.

Sometime in November 2018

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A Lovecraftian anthology edited by Joe Pulver is always something to be pumped about. This one is being put out by Chaosium Fiction. The book tracks the impact of a copy of the Necronomicon over decades. With another TOC to kill for (S.P. Miskowski! Michael Cisco! Jeffrey Thomas!) this will scratch that late autumn horror itch.

Creatures of Want and Ruin by Molly Tanzer

November 13th, 2018

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Evil mushroom moonshine during some kind of supernatural Prohibition. A cult making doomsday claims. This story is told by the always incredible Molly Tanzer. Color me excited for this book when it drops mid-November.

And that’s 7 Books That I’m Dying to Read! I’m sure I missed all kinds of books. Let me know what you’re excited for!

New Story Alert: ‘Night Shift at the Blue Acres Care Facility’

I mentioned a new submission acceptance and it’s officially out in the world!

My story ‘Night Shift at the Blue Acres Care Facility’ is featured on the third episode of the Hooks of Horror Podcast!

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It’s a great new podcast that gives a prompt every month that is then recorded and put out. The narrator does an incredible job. The show is high quality. I’ve included a link below:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hooks-of-horror/id1409415525?mt=2#episodeGuid=5b88dcbbe17657bc09eb42c8

Enjoy!

Monthly Review (August 2018)

It’s August and that means we are TWO MONTHS AWAY from October which is the best month of the year and please don’t fight me on this because you will lose. August was a busy month for me for a lot of reasons (started taking classes, work craziness, lots of reading to do). So here are some numbers for the month:

Story Submissions:

Submissions: 3

Stories Still Out in the Wild: 2

Acceptances: 1

Rejections: 4

Fhtagn! Four rejections this month! The first three shot-gunned into my inbox on the 1st of the month to remind me that humbleness is a virtue that people should have (or something). I can’t speak for the cruel intentions of the universe.

I sent two of the stories back out, and one of them (a reprint) is back in the story armory. I’m struggling to get some new stories done, but these last few months have been a little dry. I’ve got my eye on a few deadlines for upcoming anthology/magazine calls that I hope to have a stories completed for. But August wasn’t all doom and gloom!

I do have one acceptance… But I can’t talk about it yet! More to come on this.

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What Else Have I Been Doing?

An interview with Kristi DeMeester!

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Kristi had an amazing 2017 and has quickly shot up my list as one of my favorites in the Weird Fiction scene. Read the interview I did with her here to get her take on a bevy of topics (her life, her novel, where you can catch her future work). My next interview will be with Michael Wehunt on the 5th of September.

‘Pickman’s Gallery’ by Ulthar Press

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Ulthar Press’ newest anthology hit shelves on the 18th of this month. It features my story ‘A Pickman Original’, a piece detailing the occupational hazards of being an art collector. To celebrate it’s release I wrote a piece about it’s subject (Richard Upton Pickman) that you can find here. You should also totally buy a copy of this from Ulthar Press or Amazon. Matthew Carpenter has put together another amazing book that I hope all horror fans glam onto.

‘Night Shift at the Blue Acres Care Facility’

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I put together a free story for a submission to The Hooks of Horror Podcast. This kills two birds with one stone. I get to submit a story, and you get a free story to read! So here it is. I hope you enjoy it!

With that we say goodbye to August.

One month closer to October.

Night Shift at the Blue Acres Care Facility

Jake’s phone died with a feeble buzz. Jake tore his ear buds out from his ears and stuffed both his phone and the headphones into the front pocket of his scrubs. Just his luck. Stuck on the night shift with no music.

He looked out over the quiet of the care facility. The silence of the place was starting to get to him. He wished he’d kept his job at McDonald’s. Sure, the pay was better here. But the hours certainly weren’t.

He’d been stuck with the graveyard shift at Blue Acre Care Facility. It was his job to serve as security between the hours of 11 PM and 7 AM the next morning. He was a knight in scrub armor for a building of old people who couldn’t care less about him being there. The only other employees in the building were some catty nurses at the front desk, another security guard in the East Wing, and his buddy Darrell working laundry downstairs.

Five days ago, Jake had been on the Laundry Crew as well. Then it started happening. Old people began dying. Not the normal way they do in facilities like this. This was the fishy sort of death, sometimes multiple in one night. The night shift nurses’ (during their rounds) would find them, mouths open wide and their dry eyeballs bulging. Maybe. Jake suspected that was an exaggeration.

You know what wasn’t an exaggeration? The corpses in the basement. The biggest snowstorm in southwest Michigan had struck earlier in the week. The heavy ice and snow had pulled down power lines and trapped people in their homes. Most of Allegan had lost power, including the morgue up the road. They couldn’t get the bodies. No power to keep them cool. So they were being kept in the service hallway in the basement. Covered in sheets with the doors locked up, a portable cooling system running overtime to keep the bodies cold. Darrell said that the hum of the thing was driving him crazy down in the laundry room.

The owners of Blue Acres had lost it. They couldn’t figure out why their patients were dying. Was it disease? Something more sinister? Jake had been pulled from laundry and stuck at a security desk until an investigation could be completed. His job was to watch the hallway. That’s it. The nurses did everything else.

Everything had been quiet though. Not that Jake minded that. What could he possibly do if someone came strolling down that hallway anyway? Some tall fella, reaching for a door handle, smiling at Jake as he–

It’s so cold

Jake startled and nearly fell from his chair. Someone had just spoke! It had been clear enough that he felt like it was coming from directly behind him. Jake jerked his head around. No one in the hallway except for him. Nothing. You need sleep. You need to get on the day shift. He settled back in, alert for a few minutes. After a while, the complete and utter silence wore on him.

Jake felt his eyes growing heavy. He let them close, just for a second. Behind his eyes, tinged at the edges with darkness, the hallway stretched out. Bad art and maps of the facility dotted the walls. Ice crept up from the floor, frost turning hard as it reached ever higher. Something was walking down the center of the hallway. Impossibly tall. Spindly arms tipped with thin fingers. Fear blossomed in Jake’s chest, red-hot. He got a quick glance at the figure before he averted his eyes. It was maggot-grey, its wrinkled torso shot through with cerulean veins. It walked in a jerky movement that made Jake’s head swim. The ice was creeping higher and higher, consuming wall lights like black mold in a rotting house. The Maggot-Thing turned its head and stretched its neck out, the loose skin pulling ever tighter at the base of its squashed head.

It’s so cold please Lord it’s so cold

Metal crashed against something hard and Jake screamed awake, his hands lashing out at his desk. He stood up, his heart thudding. Midway down the hallway in front of him, the basement door had been thrown open. Muffled footsteps echoed down his desolate hallway, growing distant as the metal door closed. Someone is breaking in!

Without thinking, Jake ran around his desk and charged toward the closing door. He’d fallen asleep and someone had taken the opportunity to rush down the stairs! No. Not today. He was going to put an end to this.

Jake reached the door right before it latched. He yanked hard and threw himself through.

He took the stairs two at a time, his chest heaving. His heart was threatening to beat through his ribcage. He had no plan. No way to fight an intruder. What are you doing!?

Jake stiff-armed the basement door and found himself on the other side. He looked right, facing the laundry and boiler room. Empty. He turned left, his eyes scanning up from the floor. When he saw it, he felt his stomach churn.

Blood covered every inch of floor. A severed hand lay off to the side, coated in red-tinged frost. Its deceased owner lay in the center, torn asunder. Organs gleamed pink. Dark skin was coated crimson. Darrell. His only friend. Dead.

Jake fell into the wall, stifling a scream. He was barely holding on. At the end, just beyond Darrell’s mutilated corpse, the utility hallway double doors were thrown wide. Cold air rolled through into the main hall. The sound of the industrial cooling machine droned on, the hum of a thousand mechanical wasps. Jake could see everything.

It’s cold please save us please

He saw two rows of gurneys on each side of the utility hallway. Twelve sheets covering twelve cold bodies.

The intruder must still be down here. He’d unlocked the utility door. He’d killed Darrell. Fear and rage melded inside of him. He knew, in the rational part of his brain, that he should flee. Call the police and let them hunt this murderer down. But Jake didn’t want that. He wanted to hurt this monster. Break his bones. Inflict on him what he had on Darrell.

His tennis shoes crunched on the frosty floor. His breath misted. Claustrophobia clamped an icy hand around Jake’s throat. The utility hallway was a small space. Only a few closets with extra supplies or old furniture. The corpses took up every other square inch. Jake looked around, his fists clenched. He wasn’t sure what he was expecting. But–

Voices seared through his brain. Jake howled and clamped his hands to his ears. It did nothing to stop them. It was a pandemonium of wails and howls, punctuated with whispered threats. The sound was coming from inside his head.

Ice was creeping up the walls. A pipe suddenly burst, the sound blowing Jake’s eardrums out. He reeled, his hands thrown out for balance. His fingers found the cold resistance of a corpse. He cried out and hugged his arms back to his body. He was beginning to blubber now. He felt helpless.

The double doors slammed shut.

Jake stopped and stared. You’re trapped. He heard the door lock engage with a final click. The air was ice now. It was getting colder.

Jake rushed the doors and threw his shoulder into them. They rattled, but did not give. He did it again and again, the shock of it traveling through his body. He could feel his face and fingers going numb.

The voices raised in pitch, laughter keening through. The corpses were laughing at him. They’d sprung a trap. He was a victim now. But for what purpose!? Why!?

From behind him, Jake heard the silky rustle of sheets moving. Jake paused his attack on the door. The voices had gone silent. He wanted to turn around. He wanted to see what he’d heard.

Jake did, tears forming in his eyes. All twelve corpses were sitting up. Wrinkled skin and dry, bulging eyes. Pale flesh gone loose with age. One by one each corpse smiled, lips pulling up into a rigid mockery of a human smile.

Tears rolled down Jake’s cheeks. He was frozen, his back pressed hard into the unyielding door. Then, from the corner of the hall where darkness gathered, the figure from his nightmare emerged. It’s real. Its fat, heavy head brushed at the ceiling. It’s nearly translucent skin quivered in unholy anticipation, long fingers curling and uncurling. The Maggot-Thing walked toward Jake, its gait long and unnatural. It was a hulking horror unlike anything else that Jake could have ever dreamed of. Cold emanated from it. He could see the air twist, an aura of sheer rime.

The corpses swung their legs around and set their feet on the frozen floor. Sheets slithered down in unison, the sound nearly lost under the roar of the portable cooler. They began to close in, each lurching body still grinning. The Maggot-Thing’s head twisted like a towel in a wringer. The skin split in several places, the blue wounds bloodless and gaping. It hunched over, pressing its gargantuan hands on the nearest gurney. The metal twisted under its weight.

They planned to claim him. As they had so many before. The first corpse grabbed at Jake. Jake fought, but it was no use. They were too strong. There was too many of them. They had him by the arms, by the legs, by the neck. He thrashed uselessly. The Maggot-Thing turned its head skyward in vile ecstasy. Its skin twitched, the veins inside squirming.

The voices in his head had gone silent. They had nothing more to say.