Dark deaths selected hor.., p.1
Dark Deaths_Selected Horror Fiction, page 1
Selected Horror Fiction
Also by William Cook
Shadows in the Dark
Here Comes the Bride
Dolly Did It
Dream of a Dog
The Moon Came Down
One Way Ticket
A Dream Realized
The Pale Stranger
About the Author
Also by William Cook
Short Fiction Collections
DREAMS OF THANATOS: Collected Macabre Tales
CORPUS DELICTI: Selected Poetry
GAZE INTO THE ABYSS: The Poetry of Jim Morrison
SECRETS OF BEST-SELLING SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS
FRESH FEAR: An Anthology of Macabre Horror
DARK DEATHS: Selected Horror Fiction
Copyright © 2017, William Cook.
Published by King Billy Publications.
All rights reserved. This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people or locales, are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental. No part of this publication may be reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or otherwise, without written permission from the author. The right of William Cook to be identified as the author of the Work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents act 1988.
Book cover design & illustrations © by 3cagency.
DARK DEATHS: Selected Horror Fiction
by William Cook
1st Ebook ed.
[1.Fiction. 2. Science Fiction. 3. Horror.]
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“William Cook tells a gruesome story with a sense of authenticity that makes you question with considerable unease if it really is fiction, after all.”
– Graham Masterton, author of The Manitou and Descendant
“This man is simply scary. There is both a clinical thoroughness and a heartfelt emotional thoroughness to his writing. He manages to shock as well as empathize, to scare as well as acclimatize, yet beneath it all is a well-read intelligence that demands to be engaged. I loved Blood Related. Ordinarily I hate serial killer stories, but William Cook won me over. He is a unique and innovative talent.”
– Joe McKinney, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Flesh Eaters and Dog Days
“William Cook is a dark author of terror and a master of the close up scene of realistic crime and acts of horror. There are a handful of new names in the horror field who cause a visceral reaction in the reader and Cook is one of them. He has his hand on the pulse of the macabre.”
– BillieSue Mosiman, author of Wireman
“William Cook knows horror from Fiction to Nonfiction, and he has a gift for blending the two genres seamlessly. You pray his fictional horror is not real, and hope his nonfiction horror is fiction. No matter what book of Cook's you read, you'll be hoping and praying. Here is Horror that you revel in with fascination and repulsion. William Cook has reinvented "Libertine Horror".”
– Anthony Servante, author of East Los and Killers and Horror: Ink Black, Blood Red
“William Cook is an uncompromising horror writer. Be prepared to slink down into the underbelly of the world as visions are revealed that can’t be unseen. Strong stomachs required here folks!”
– Rocky Wood, former President of The Horror Writers Association and Stephen King biographer.
“William Cook is an author to watch.”
– Mark Edward Hall, author of The Lost Village
“A world-creator who fuses the psychosis of character with literary poetics, William Cook will disturb you, enlighten you, and entertain you.”
– Vincenzo Bilof, author of The Horror Show
As far back as I remember, I have written stories. The one common thread among the stories is that there is an inevitable recourse to darkness. The kind of darkness that creeps through the crack under a locked door; the darkness that lingers in the mind after contemplating the death of a loved one, or an enemy. When I was a boy I used to get comments from my teachers about my class writing, such as “my, what a bloodthirsty mind you have!” or “a well-written story but far too gory.” The most common response to my stories was “why don’t you write something nice?” I could never provide a satisfactory answer – I used to try and justify the macabre and melancholic aspects of my stories with claims of poetic license, never fully understanding my own predilection for things of a dark nature. Maybe it was an aspect of my home life, or experiences as a child? Perhaps I wrote down things in an effort to exorcize my personal demons . . . ? Whatever the cause, I have come to realize that the reader experiences these types of stories quite differently from the author who writes them. The author draws on their own experiences, influences and technical abilities in order to write effective stories that will hopefully resonate with the reader. The reader in turn brings their own abilities and experiences to play when they read and use their imagination to interpret the story and any possible meaning. Hopefully (there’s that word again – hope, an inherent quality that I try to resolve most of my stories with), the distance between writer and reader is bridged by the power of the tale and the message (if any) it imparts.
In Dark Deaths: Selected Horror Fiction, I hope that you, dear reader, find something that resonates within this collection. Perhaps one of the stories might make you check the locks on your doors before turning in for the night? Maybe one of the tales in this collection will make you contemplate something you may not have thought about, or want to think about? You might think twice about keeping that old doll sitting in a box in the attic, or take a second look at the guy across the road who sits in his upstairs window watching passersby. Whatever the response, my goal is to get you involved with the story – for you to suspend disbelief if only for a short while as you read these tales. Be warned, this is a mixed bag – a distillation of stories written over the course of a number of years – whimsical childhood nightmares lurk amongst the bloodied remains of serial murderers and revenant spirits. Each story is a dark death, an epitaph of sorts, as I lay them to rest in this collection.
New Zealand. October, 2017.
Shadows in the Dark
The shadows in the dark, morph and move like liquid night. I can hear them whispering. Breathing. They surround my bed, hunched crows around carrion – their black forms without definition, blurred beyond reason and shape. They move like memories – swelling, growing with each breath, then shrinking, receding, swallowed by the blackness until the night is still again and all I hear is blood pumping through my temples.
Mother does not answer my cries anymore, so I have ceased to voice my night terrors. I have learned to live with my fear, to accept that reality is nothing less than a waking nightmare. And each night they return, the night terrors – the dreams that break from the dark places and run headlong, screaming into my brain. The nightmares, which were once confined to the fevered realms of my imagination, have now escaped and r
As the dusk dwindles and fades outside my bedroom window; as the last vestiges of light burn low and disappear between the cracks in the curtains, the shadows reappear. Their whispers start with soft murmurs, barely discernible at first, like the noise of baby calves mewling. As the night progresses, the whispers grow in volume and intensity until a ‘whooshing’ sound, much like the sound of a prairie wind buffeting the outer walls of the house, fills my room. I clasp my hands over my ears but the sound is in my mind. The sound fills my body, my heart flutters beneath my ribs like a dying bird. I stifle my cries – sometimes I cannot contain my fear. It bursts from my body, like a flock of pigeons on the wing.
The thin blanket on the bed affords a false sense of security as I huddle beneath the stained fabric, praying to gods I don’t believe in – wishing the shadows would take their leave and go. But they don’t, they never do. Since they first appeared six months ago, creeping from the wall corners on the ceiling of my room, they have steadily approached my bed. They, for there are many, stalk me with a slow agonizing advance. Inch by inch, the army of darkness advances.
And now . . . now they stand over me. I feel their presence looming, hovering mere fractions above the blanket that covers my trembling body. I hold my breath, waiting for the inevitable touch – I imagine thick black coils of molasses, twisting and turning, spindly fingers as black as ink winding their way through my hair until they grip and yank me up into the dark black night, never to be seen again. But so far, the ultimate darkness eludes me – sleep holds no sanctuary and my mind keeps circling around the possibility, that death is the only way out.
Along with the nightmares that bleed into every moment of my existence, I now see terribly tangible things that beckon with their symbolism. Mundane everyday things, like a coil of rope, the rusty scythe that hangs on the barn wall, the deep empty well, the short-handled hatchet we used to use for the fowl . . . All offer a sanctuary of sorts and speak in silent sigils of their possibilities to me. I plan my possible escape and hope to build my resolve, so that I can take my leave of this place and these things . . . soon.
On this particular morning, the light of the rising sun slowly fills the room. The shadows recede back into the corners, into the timber walls covered in peeling wallpaper, back under the bed, beneath the standing closet, under the chest of drawers . . . like an oil-spill in reverse, the darkness recedes. Weak with sleep deprivation and hunger, I sit up. The old wire-frame mattress creaks and my breath mists before me in the frigid air, as I gingerly extend one bare foot onto the cold timber floorboards, retracting it slightly before placing both feet firmly on the floor. I’ve given up checking for the shapeless darkness under the bed and in the cracks and corners – I know what I will see amongst the cob-webs and mice droppings, the smallest of shadows curled up in the recesses free from the harsh light of day. And there they’ll stay, until night-fall, opaquely innocuous, almost indiscernible to the naked eye, before they transform into bigger things. More dangerous things, that speak of evilness and ungodly events to come.
I yawn uncontrollably, shivering with the cold. I quickly pull a soiled shirt over my head and buckle the belt holding up my ragged jeans. I tug on my old boots and tie the laces before slipping a threadbare jerkin over my shoulders and a slouch hat on my head. I cough and look around the room once more, chastising myself for my continued foolishness, then open the door and step down onto the muddy ground. I leave the door of the cottage wide open, uselessly hoping that the shadows will escape – that some force will extricate them from my dwelling before I return from the fields. My stomach growls hungrily and I can feel my rib-bones brush against the material of my shirt as I walk.
The early-morning earth is crisp and hard with frost as I trudge across the field to the furthest boundary of our property. My family had toiled blood and sweat for many decades, mining these now-barren fields for nutrients. My grandfather worked these fields and planted most of the crops before he expired and the property went to my father. It was not a large plot of land, but it proved ample enough for us to have pulled a living from the soil each quarter up until recently. Potatoes provided the main source of food and income for our family, for as long as I could remember. We had some good livestock for a while that also provided sustenance for the whole family – a couple of cows, chickens, a few pigs and some goats, but after a particularly nasty winter we lost most of them to the cold and they ended up on our dinner plates. Pa attempted to grow beets and radishes to supplement the low-yielding months when the potatoes ceased to produce, but all the crops had eventually dwindled as his health failed and Mother’s madness blossomed.
Harold, my older brother, fled the farm only to return a year later with his ‘tail between his legs,’ as Mother described him. He lasted another three months working on the farm, before Pa found him hanging from a rafter in the barn. I remember him swinging there, so high up and lifeless, the rope creaking on the timber strut, as the breeze that blew through the cracks in the barn-wall slowly rotated his body mid-air. His pants were darkened with urine stains and his face was swollen blue with blood. I remember the thud he made when he hit the hay-bales that Pa had stacked beneath him. Pa wept with the sickle in his hand, standing up there in the loft, amongst the shadows. Harry lay spread-eagled atop the rancid hay-bales, one broken leg twisted beneath him, his head turned at a queer angle – his glazed eyes staring dead ahead and his blackened tongue lolling from the corner of his mouth still open in an ‘O.’ I didn’t cry for my brother, because the shadows had started to come for me by then. Harry had taken the easy way out and left me for dead. At that point I had loathed my brother, but now I understand him completely. I knew that all he had wanted to do when he slipped the noose over his head and tightened it around his throat, was to escape.
I cease turning the soil slowly with the hoe and stand. My lower back aches with the exertion of my fruitless work, as I look back across the field to the small house and the remains of the barn that stands off to one side.
The blackened husk of the barn still defies gravity, despite Pa’s best efforts to raze it to the ground. I remember the night he’d set it ablaze as if it were yesterday. I woke from a rare deep sleep, my small bedroom glowing and flickering with a rich red hue. I scratched the curtains back from the window-pane and recoiled at what I saw. I ran from my room outside and stopped, the intense heat pushing me back as huge flames licked the night sky above. Billowing clouds of smoke rose into the darkness as showers of embers floated all around like frenetic fire-flies. Mother sat on her knees, tearing clumps of smoking black hair from her scalp – moaning and rocking as she stared into the fire, her night-dress soiled with mud and god-knows-what.
I staggered to one side, edging around the barn, calling out for Pa. All I could hear was the roar of the blazing fire as it devoured the stored hay and the timber walls of the barn. Smoking ash floated all around me, embers tumbling in the updrafts created by the blaze, as I became consumed with a fear that hell had been unleashed upon our small family. A distant memory of the Sunday pastor’s words filled my mind as he roared passages from Isaiah: “For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.” We had sinned. My brother had sinned. My mother blasphemed at the drop of a hat and my thoughts were impure, oh so impure . . . I could hear Pa’s screams then. Coming from the center of the blaze, an awful noise broke forth from the wall of fire. His screams were high pitched until the smoke and fire choked the last breath from his charred lungs. Pa emerged from the flames, a fiery form stumbling blindly, his burning arms outstretched stiff as his entire body was ravaged by the twisting inferno. He took a few more steps and stopped, framed by the gaping entrance churning with smoke and cinders. I watched in horror as his eyes burst from his skull and ran down his blistered cheeks like black tears, the viscous fluids momentarily extinguishing
The flames seemed to reach out to her as she approached. Long tendril-like fingers of fire lashed her body as she fought her way through the flames and burning debris to collapse onto Pa’s charred and lifeless body. She started screaming, in the same high-pitched way Pa had done just moments ago, as her night-dress exploded into flame and her hair was scorched from her peeling scalp. I dropped to my knees, stunned beyond belief – wondering if this were not just some sick dream that I was still in the midst of.
Above the smoke and the embers, rain began to fall and before long I was soaked to my skin. As the flames dissipated with the blanket of soft rain and the main body of the barn collapsed in a shower of sparks and ash, I wept. Mother and father were gone, just like Harold. The fire had eaten their souls and now the night was closing in again as the last of the flames turned to smoke. The pitter-patter rain sizzling on the glowing embers of the barn’s skeletal remains.
I swallowed hard, tears flowed with the rain that ran in rivulets down my face. The next day I turned back to my work and the day after that. Months passed as I stabbed at the earth with the sharp end of the hoe until I could do no more. From the seed-bag that hung from my tired shoulders, I sowed the long ruts in the soil with new life, covering the last of the seeded-potato sprouts quickly with the turned soil. Burying them as I had my family, although these would grow again . . . hopefully.
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