A young woman discovers a strange portal in her uncle’s house, leading to madness and terror in this gripping new novel from the author of the “innovative, unexpected, and absolutely chilling” (Mira Grant, Nebula Award–winning author) The Twisted Ones.
Kara finds the words in the mysterious bunker that she’s discovered behind a hole in the wall of her uncle’s house. Freshly divorced and living back at home, Kara now becomes obsessed with these cryptic words and starts exploring this peculiar area—only to discover that it holds portals to countless alternate realities. But these places are haunted by creatures that seem to hear thoughts…and the more one fears them, the stronger they become.
With her distinctive “delightfully fresh and subversive” (SF Bluestocking) prose and the strange, sinister wonder found in Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, The Hollow Places is another compelling and white-knuckled horror novel that you won’t be able to put down.
“Kingfisher imagines the horrors lying between worlds in this chilling supernatural thriller…Kingfisher has crafted a truly terrifying monster with minimal descriptions that leave the reader’s imagination to run wild. With well-timed humor and perfect scares, this one is a keeper for horror fans.” —Publishers Weekly
“There are no cheap scares here…entirely of the author’s wonderfully twisted and endlessly fertile imagination….The perfect tale for fans of horror with heart.” —Kirkus Reviews“Can horror even be this rollicking, this fun, while still delivering on the creepiness, the dread, the ick? In Kingfisher’s hands, it can.” —Stephen Graham Jones, acclaimed author of The Only Good Indians
T. Kingfisher, also known as Ursula Vernon, is the author and illustrator of many projects, including the webcomic “Digger,” which won the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story and the Mythopoeic Award. Her novelette “The Tomato Thief” won the Hugo Award for Best Novelette, and her short story “Jackalope Wives” won the Nebula Award for Best Story. She is also the author of the bestselling Dragonbreath, and the Hamster Princess series of books for children. Find her online at RedWombatStudio.com.
Excerpt from Chapter 1
Nobody ever believes me when I tell them my uncle Earl owns a museum.
They start to come around when I explain that it’s a little tiny museum in a storefront in Hog Chapel, North Carolina, although there’s so much stuff jumbled together that it looks bigger than it is. Then I tell them the name and they stop believing me again.
It makes for a good icebreaker at parties, anyway.
My uncle runs the Glory to God Museum of Natural Wonders, Curiosities, and Taxidermy.
Most of it is complete junk, of course. There are things in the cases that undoubtedly have (MADE IN CHINA stamped on the underside. I threw out the shrunken heads when I was fifteen and found identical ones for sale at the Halloween store. But the wall of Thimbles of the World is real or, at least, contains real thimbles, and all the Barong masks are really from Bali, and if the Clovis points were chipped out in the seventies instead of thousands of years ago, they were at least still made by a human with a rock. The jar of MYSTERY PODS?! on the counter are the cones from a Banksia plant, but they’re a mystery to most people, so I guess that counts.
And the taxidermy is real, insomuch as it is genuine taxidermy. That part of the museum has eleven stuffed deer heads, six stuffed boar heads, one giraffe skull, forty-six stuffed birds of various species, three stuffed albino raccoons, a Genuine Feejee Mermaid—which I keep trying to get him to rename because I think it’s probably racist, or at least he could put a sign up explaining the context—two jackalopes, an entire case of dried scorpions, a moth-eaten grizzly bear, five stuffed prairie dogs, two fur-bearing trout, one truly amazing Amazonian river otter, and a pickled cobra in a bottle.
There’s a lot of other stuff, too. That’s just the ones on the first floor. I’m leaving out the things in boxes, and some things are hard to count. How do I classify the statue of St. Francis of Assisi with the carefully stuffed and mounted sparrows perched on his arms? And I’m not really sure whether the scene of tiny taxidermy mice in armor riding cane toads counts as one thing or as six mice and two toads. They’re in the case with the armadillo purse (and do I count that as clothing or as taxidermy?) and a mug that may have been used by Elvis Presley. The mug has an American flag on it. Uncle Earl put an album sleeve behind it and a large sign proclaiming that Elvis came to the Lord before he died. I’m not sure if that’s true, but Uncle Earl firmly believes that every celebrity he likes came to the Lord before they died. I think this is so that he can picture them partying with angels instead of being hellbound.
Uncle Earl believes strongly in Jesus, Moses, the healing power of crystals, the Freemasons, the Illuminati, that aliens landed at Roswell but the government is suppressing it, secret histories, faith-healing, snake-handling, that there is an invention that will replace gasoline but the oil companies are suppressing it, chemtrails, demon-possession, the astonishing powers of Vicks VapoRub, and that there’s proof that aliens contacted the Mayans and the Aztecs and probably the Egyptians, but the scientists are suppressing it. He believes in Skunk Ape, Chupacabras, and he positively adores Mothman. He is not Catholic, but he believes in the miracle of Fatima, visions of Mary appearing on toast, and he is nearly positive that the end times are upon us, but seems to be okay with this, provided it does not interfere with museum hours.
Uncle Earl also likes nearly everyone he’s ever met, even the ones who believe in none of these things. If you made a Venn diagram of the saved and the damned, the damned would all be outside Uncle Earl’s personal circle. He doesn’t like to think of people he knows being in hell.
I tried pointing out once that the nice tourist couple he’d just talked to for forty-five minutes were Muslim.
He said that was fine. “There’s a lot of Muslims in the world, Carrot.” (My name is Kara, but he’s called me Carrot since I was two years old.) “God wouldn’t send all those good people to hell.”
“A lot of people would disagree with you.”
“That’s fine, too.”
It’s hard to argue with Uncle Earl. He can believe in too many things at the same time, without any apparent contradiction.
“Dr. Williams at the coffee shop says the earth is billions of years old.”
“Could be,” said Uncle Earl. “Could be. Creation took seven days, but I don’t know how long a day is for God.”
“But you’ve got a sign in the case with the prairie dogs that says the earth is four thousand years old.”
“It’s a quote from the Reverend James Smiley. It’s attributed down at the bottom. If it’s wrong, it’s on him. I’m not here to judge. The visitors can decide for themselves what they want to believe.”
“What if they decide wrong, though?”
“God forgives a lot,” said Uncle Earl. “He has to. We all do a lot that needs forgiving.”
I gave up.
When I was a kid, my classmates asked if I thought the museum was creepy. Some of the taxidermy was old and kind of battered, and you turn around the wrong corner and there’d be glass eyes staring at you. One of the albino raccoons had a particularly unpleasant grin. But, no, I never found it creepy. I grew up in it. I was sitting behind the counter taking people’s donations when I was so young that I needed to sit on a phone book to reach the cash register.
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