A Christmas gift for my readers – a flash fiction holiday story

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A short flash fiction story…Holiday Horror

Here’s a flash fiction piece for the Holiday.

Enjoy!

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Holiday Lights
By Michael Thomas-Knight

It takes me a minute to realize I am in real trouble. I grip the side of the chimney, thirty feet in the air, with a length of lit Christmas lights in my hand. I wanted to wrap the light string around the chimney from the side that was accessible from the roof peak to the side that stood in open air. I had attempted to throw the wire around the chimney like a lasso but it got caught up on the chimney cap. I reached out to get it and slipped off the roof shingles.

My arms strain to the threshold of pain as I try to regain purchase on the roof with my left foot. My right foot clings to a small nub in the brick, thirty feet in the air. I have no choice; I have to jump. I may sprain both ankles or even break a leg but I’ll deal with it. I notice how the colored lights illuminate the chimney and the skin of my arm, soft colors; red, green, blue and yellow. It would have looked fantastic if I had finished decorating, better than the Johnson’s house across the street. I finally had something that Ted Johnson couldn’t copy, a way to differentiate my home from his. His chimney is at the back of his house.

My arms can’t hold on any longer. I decide to push off with my feet so I won’t land too close to the chimney and scrape my face. I count to three and push. I fall a few feet and my journey is interrupted. I feel a hard tug on my neck and my body bounces back against the chimney brick. The string of lights is wrapped around my throat and cutting into my flesh. I kick my feet frantically to find some kind of purchase or to kick myself loose, either one. I try to grab the wire but it is embedded too deeply into my neck. I can’t breath and I gasp for air. My face turns red hot. I pull on the little twinkle bulbs to get my fingers under the green wire. It doesn’t work. I find the hanging end of the wire and pull on it forcefully, hoping to snap it and help it to unravel. It pulls plastic from wire and I feel jolts of electric current stiffen every muscle in my body. My body quivers a few moments and I feel heat. Flames rise before my eyes as my clothes catch fire. My vision fades and I pray the strangulation will take me before I feel the excruciating pain of my burning flesh. The flames engulf me. I hear the Johnson’s Dodge Durango pull up across the street and the doors open. Then I hear Ted Johnson say, “Holy Shit!”

I’ve finally topped his holiday decorations. I win.

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This story is part of a series of flash fiction I am writing that deals with the ‘moment of death’ for my characters. Another of the stories is posted on Halloweenforevermore.com (Eight Seconds of Torment). I intend to title the full body of work, Moments of Death or 99 Ways to Die, or something like that. Let me know your thoughts 🙂

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Late Phases (2014) – Movie review

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Late Phases (2014)

Directed By Adrián García Bogliano

Starring:
Nick Damici
Ethan Embry
Lance Guest

I often like small films with only a few characters that are story driven and don’t rely on big effects to move the plot. This is a cool low-key film that fit’s the bill. It has a well written script and a good message of honor, redemption and reconciliation.

A blind Vietnam Vet, Ambrose McKinney, is dropped off at his new retirement community home. He and his seeing-eye dog (and companion), named Shadow, are settling in. He is a hard personality, unfriendly to the neighbor’s welcome and stand off-ish to the community. He doesn’t want to know anything about any of them, until his neighbor is killed by something vicious in the middle of the night. He listens through the wall picking up sounds to late-phases--posterfigure out what is happening. The creature knows this and attacks him next. Shadow does his best to protect Ambrose and the dog is killed.

A werewolf mystery unfolds as Ambrose attempts to figure out who the shape shifter is before the next full moon. Though blind, he is quite capable and makes some headway to pin down the possible suspects. However the werewolf realizes what he is doing and makes some counter plans for himself. It all converges on the night of the next full moon. Meanwhile the cold relationship of Ambrose with his son grows even colder as the younger man attempts to discover why his father is acting so strangely. The werewolf transformation scene is nothing special but at this point, what could they actually show that hasn’t been seen already? Did I mention it also has a small part by Tina Louise…yes from Gilligan’s Island.

Wonderful acting, story and good characters drive the plot and make this a very good film. There may have been a few aspects that could have been explored a little deeper and the horror aspect was in low ratio compared to the drama of life and subject of getting old, but overall I think the characters felt real and that‘s what made this film watchable. It’s not the high action of most modern horror, but worth a viewing for those with a little patience.

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Worth a watch for those who want good story and a break from all the overwrought effects in Werewolf films.

I give it 3.0 gnarly snarls out of 5 on the cantankerous canine carnivore scale.

Classic Horror Stories – The early days of horror as a genre

Classic Horror Stories – The early days of horror as a genre

If you want to be a horror writer it’s quite important to read some of the classics, to know your heritage, in order to move forward from the early days into modern story-telling.

Here are some important links for you to read some of the classic horror authors and stories online

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Poe

Edgar Allan Poe – Ligeia
Read Ligeia at Online-Literature.com

Many if not all of Poe’s Stories and Poems can also be found here:
http://www.poestories.com/stories.php

ligeia - poe

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Bram-Stoker-

Bram Stoker – The Dream of Red Hands
Read The Dream of Red Hands 
(thanks to Paula Cappa for the suggested reading)

The Bram Stoker site includes more short stories:
http://bramstoker.org/

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Perhaps the pinnacle in Lovecraft tales:
The Whisperer in Darkness
Read it here: http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/wid.aspx

Need to read some Lovecraft Tales:
http://www.hplovecraft.com/
and
http://www.dagonbytes.com/thelibrary/lovecraft/

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More horror fiction short stories:

More stories, Hawthorne to Stevenson – Polidori to Blackwood
Literary horror short stories:
http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/horrorindex.html

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Starry Eyes (2014) – Movie review

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Starry Eyes (2014)

Directors: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer

(some spoilers in the review)
Sarah is a young actress living in Hollywood hoping to live her dream as a rising star. She works at a fast food restaurant, lives with her roommate and spends quite a bit of time with her group of friends, all striving to make it to the big time. The friends are the usual suspects, a musician who gets high most of the day, a director who constantly talks about his movie that never gets made, a bitchy girlfriend that puts Sarah down at every chance she can, and her more level headed roommate who seems to genuinely care for her.

Sarah gets an audition from a production company with some prestige and history in Hollywood. She is asked back for several more auditions, each one getting stranger than the last. It’s at the last meeting with the producer that she realizes she is being initiated into some kind of black magic cult. The Satan worshipers tell her of a transformation and a new birth that will take place enabling her to achieve success and be welcomed into the fold. She runs from starry-eyes-dvd coverthem terrified.

When she returns home from the last meeting, she is disoriented, unaware of passing time, paranoid of friends, and often lashing out at them for little reason. Her body begins to change as if her old self is rotting away to make room for the new person inside. Her skin turns black in places, her fingernails and hair fall out and her lips turn black. The tension gets taut as she changes, putting her friends in danger as her mind seems to loose touch with reality.

It’s unnerving to watch as her world turns ugly. Alex Esso is a charming actress and plays her part perfectly establishing the hope and dejection cycle of a person seeking fame. You root for her success but when you see how far down she falls, its tragic. It’s symbolic of many young people that go out to Hollywood with big dreams, only to find a life of drug addiction and of being abused by others. This is modern horror film, personal, ugly, and self inflicted in many ways. There are a few unanswered questions at the end, but I think it leaves the symbolism at the forefront and is all the better movie for doing so. You literally have to stab your friends in the back to make it in tinsel town and you will leave your old life and values in ruins. The end suggests that she makes the transformation and will live with a newfound success but at what cost? As I said, this is modern horror (Martyrs, Cabin Fever, It Follows, Human Centipede) and it doesn’t leave you with a good feeling afterwards. It’s a strong film and an original story, but sometimes I think I’d just rather have a good ol’ fashioned monster and a hero that defeats it in the end. That said, Starry Eyes should most definitely be on your ‘to watch’ list.

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A powerful film symbolizing the soulless path to Hollywood success.

I give it 3.9 creepy cultists out of 5 starry eyes on the blackened souls scale of hopeless dreamers.

The Night Gallery (1969) – movie review

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The Night Gallery – Pilot Movie (1969)

The success of this TV pilot movie spawned the series that lasted for three seasons. Our host, Rod Serling, wrote all three stories in the pilot, all of which had a particular painting as an aspect of the tales. An interesting note is the second segment was directed by a young Steven Spielberg, his directing debut.

The Cemetery Roddy McDowall plays a scoundrel, Jeremy Evans, a distant cousin of a sick miserly estate owner. He shows up shortly before the millionaire’s death (suspicious death) to collect on the will. He derides the butler/assistant, Osmond Portifoy, who helped Uncle William Hendricks for 30 years being both a caretaker and a friend to the man. Uncle William was an artist before his disease crippled him. The last canvas he painted, a view of the family cemetery on the estate, hangs from the Night Gallery pic 11main stairway wall. Soon after the old man’s burial, Jeremy notices a difference in the painting, a fresh burial at a grave site. He calls Portifoy to look at it but the caretaker sees no difference. After being insulted by a drunken Jeremy, Portifoy leaves for the night. As dark falls, Jeremy sees the disinterment of the coffin in the painting. He races around the mansion calling for Portifoy, forgetting that the man had left. Every time he passes the painting he sees the image of his Uncle William move closer to the front door until finally he hears the massive door knocker summoning him.

Eyes – In the second segment, Joan Crawford plays a nasty, well-to-do woman with one distraction. She is blind. Through her lawyer, she finds a man that will donate his eyes for a nominal fee. He needs to pay his bookie before the mob rubs him out. She doesn’t care about the moral implications or the man’s motives, she wants both of his eyes for $9,000. She Night Gallery pic 10especially wants to see the recently finished portrait of herself commissioned by a top artist in the field. The sight will only last 12 – 13 hours. But there will be a price to pay for taking advantage of those less fortunate.

The Escape Route – In the final segment, a man can’t keep his terrible past a secret as memories of his work at Nazi concentration camps surface. Now living in Brazil, he spends time at a museum, under a peaceful painting of a lone man fishing on a docile lake. He imagines himself there at the lake many times. An international investigation team is closing in upon him and he has one wish from God. But God isn’t going to let his sins go unpunished.

These are three excellent tales with stronger themes than The Twilight Zone while still retaining the moral compass of the traditional Zone tales. If you like TZ you will like this also, it feels like an extension of the old show. The first segment is downright creepy and all the stories have a twist ending. Despite that there’s more dialogue than action, the stories will certainly hold your interest.

Excellent story telling in the tradition of the best TZ episodes.
I give it 4.0 walking corpses on the tortured twisted endings scale in the Rod Serling universe.

Night Gallery pic 1

Everything you would want to know about The Night Gallery series, including a gallery of the paintings used to introduce the individual stories can be found here: http://nightgallery.net/

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The Night Gallery – the series
The series began a year later in 1970 and ran for 3 seasons through 1973. Rod Serling was the host, introducing us to stories through paintings in the art gallery. Each hour long episode had up to three stories. Some of my favorite episodes include, Pickman’s Model, The Doll, and Since Aunt Ada Came to Stay. The third season and subsequent syndication format were only half hour episodes. They had a few unaired stories and had edited down some previous episodes to only one story in order to fit the half hour format. They also added in stories from a short lived series called, The Sixth Sense with newly recorded introductions by Rod Serling to round out the syndicated series and the VHS/dvd releases. However, the dvds/blurays of the first two seasons on the market today are the original hour episodes the way they had originally aired.

Cecil and Bubba Meet The Thang – book review

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Cecil and Bubba Meet The Thang
by Terry M. West

A 50’s style sci-fi alien movie crossed with a modern duo reminiscent of Abbott & Costello, Simon Pegg & Nick Frost, or Dale & Tucker, describes this tale fairly accurately. Fun, fun, fun. These guy’s may not be the smartest, but they make up for it with heart. Originally beginning as a short story in West’s short story collection, What Price Gory, it was clear that Cecil and Bubba had more adventures ahead of them. They are comical characters that we can all learn something from. The Aliens have landed but luckily our boys are ready to whoop some Martian ass! The novelette is fast-paced and enjoyable reading for the fan of low-brow horror. You don’t have to be familiar with the original story to read this one because it explains all the particulars you need to know. Look forward to more tales about these two comrades from Pleasant Storm, TX.

Cecil and Bubba Meet The Thang on Amazon

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Horror TV Shows – Tales From the Crypt

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My favorite horror TV Show episodes.

Tales From the Crypt – HBO
Seasons 7, episode 8
Report from the Grave

Two young scientists break into a mausoleum so Elliot can perform his experiment. His machine can retrieve left over residue from the human brain like computer code left behind on a hard drive. He seeks out the corpse of Valdemar Tymrak, butcher-type mass murderer, who wrote books about the dead. He hopes to gain some insight about Valdemar’s lost notes. Arianne is not pleased with her boyfriend’s choice of subject for the experiment, but helps him out of love and devotion. Hooking up his Tales season 7machine to Valdemar, he hears a faint signal. When he goes back to the machine Arianne puts the head device on, right as he’s boosting the power to high. She screams, then dies.

After a time of mourning and depression Elliott sets up the experiment again to see if he can resurrect the memory of his love Arianne. He gets more than that as he actually resurrects the conscious spirit of her, proving the afterlife exists. After a celebration of their love, she tells him that Valdemar is there with her, keeping her soul prisoner and keeping her from moving into the light. He wants to torture her forever. She sits up alert and nervous as she feels him coming for her reclamation. Valdemar arrives and he is one ugly, freaky, creepy, son of a bitch, wielding a curved bone-cutter knife.

This is one of my favorite episodes. The camp angle synonymous with the “Tales” series is played down and the story plays out in a serious manner. It’s a gory, bloody, ugly episode, rich with atmosphere and haunting visuals. If I was a little younger and less jaded, that creep, Valdemar would have given me cause for nightmares.

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