A coal-black tar
and feathered clinging
to your soul—it croons the sigil
at the moon—aghast and
punctured, full—a rotting
gibbous rune—an end
a stylus tipped
(c)2021 by Sanguine Woods
A coal-black tar
and feathered clinging
to your soul—it croons the sigil
at the moon—aghast and
punctured, full—a rotting
gibbous rune—an end
a stylus tipped
(c)2021 by Sanguine Woods
This playlist is very
much like coming home
for the first time
waits for no one turn turn turn
map after endless
bitch map, bastard
as fuck, never even heard
of the goddam G-spot
or Ventura Highway
sunshine on my shoulders—jet
planes leaving high above us
every second clouds
from both sides now closing in
California wet dream—and
the sky is no longer grey
but tinsel color and you
beat-off—on a dark desert
highway—rain on 1965
glass one wiperblade and a
prayer fucking exit to Todos Santos
hard as woodstock for
your sister’s golden hair—
daughter of the devil
himself an angel in white—
tied up in a hotel basement
(such a lovely face)
such a lovely place
ready a room for the
grateful dead and
Casey Jones—don’t be a prick
I bought that cocaine
and a ticket
to an aeroplane—
one foot stuck in 1967 like a
wasted fuck wilted
flowers in her sunset
I forgot to do for you—
and I had a lover once—
his long middle finger
teasing Joplin to come
out today and
put the rain away
and that music starts
to play—and oh
What’s that you say?
Jesus loves you more
than you could know…
(C)2021 by Sanguine Woods
What hope do you have?
he asked the man
holding the sacrificial lamb—it was
spotless not a
mark, virgin fleece
white as god-damned
snow. I know.
It curled at the corners,
pirate map—not Where to
pillage, loot, and rape—
subscriptio, titulus—those kinds of
things (there may have been an exchange of
ink, not blood,
something darker, licked
the page—pitch or
tar, acrid smoking a mile
where things grew
(c)2020 by Sanguine Woods
(from Varieties of Religious Experience, New York Times, December 24, 2016)
‘It’s Christmas; indulge me.
One of my hobbies is collecting what you might call nonconversion stories — stories about secular moderns who have supernatural-seeming experiences without being propelled into any specific religious faith. In some ways these stories are more intriguing than mystical experiences that confirm or inspire strong religious belief, because they come to us unmediated by any theological apparatus. They are more like raw data, raw material, the stuff that shows how spiritual experiences would continue if every institutional faith disappeared tomorrow.
Here are some public cases. Three decades ago A. J. Ayer, the British logical positivist and scourge of all religion, died and was resuscitated at the age of 77. Afterward, he reported a near-death encounter that included repeated attempts to cross a river and “a red light, exceedingly bright, and also very painful … responsible for the government of the universe.” Ayer retained his atheism, but declared that the experience had “slightly weakened” his conviction that death “will be the end of me.”
As a young man in the 1960s, the filmmaker Paul Verhoeven, of “RoboCop” and “Showgirls” fame, wandered into a Pentecostal church and suddenly felt “the Holy Ghost descending … as if a laser beam was cutting through my head and my heart was on fire.” He was in the midst of dealing with his then-girlfriend’s unexpected pregnancy; after they procured an abortion, he had a terrifying, avenging-angel vision during a screening of “King Kong.” The combined experience actively propelled him away from anything metaphysical; the raw carnality of his most famous films, he suggested later, was an attempt to keep the numinous and destabilizing at bay.
Barbara Ehrenreich, the left-wing essayist and atheist, had shocking, unlooked-for experiences of spiritual rapture as a teenager, which she wrote about in 2014’s don’t-call-it-religious memoir, “Living With a Wild God.” The “wild” part is key: Ehrenreich rejects the God of monotheism because the Being she encountered seemed stranger, less benign and more amoral than the God she thinks that most religions worship.
Lisa Chase, the wife of the late New York journalistic icon Peter Kaplan, wrote an essay for Elle Magazine last year about her experiences communicating, on her own and through a medium, with her husband after his 2013 death. There is no organized religion in her story whatsoever. But if you read the essay carefully, it’s clear that her quest was shaped by the fact that more than a few highly educated liberal Manhattan professionals have also had experiences like hers.
William Friedkin, the director of “The Exorcist,” had never seen an exorcism when he made his famous film. A professed agnostic, he decided recently to “complete the circle” and spent some time shadowing the Vatican exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth, just before Amorth’s passing at the age of 91. Friedkin recounted his experience in Vanity Fair this fall; it did not make him a Catholic believer, but it did seem to scare the Hades out of him.
“Remember what we talked about before? About our dreams?”
“They can spill.”
“That’s right. Yeah. Just like a cup of water can spill sometimes. But kids dreams are special. They’re like…”
”An ocean. That’s right. And the big dreams can spill out sometimes….Now I know that bent-neck lady can be pretty scary. But that’s all she is. She’s just a little spill.”
”How long do we have to live here, Daddy?”
”Well, your mother and I, we have to finish fixing this house. And then, someone has to buy it.”
“Then we can go?”
“Yep. Then we can go.”
No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against the hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily. against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.
—Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House, 1959
I have often heard it scream. No, I am not nervous, I am not imaginative, and I have never believed in ghosts, unless that thing is one. Whatever it is, it hates me almost as much as it hated Luke Pratt, and it screams at me.
If I were you, I would never tell ugly stories about ingenious ways of killing people, for you never can tell but that someone at the table may be tired of his or her nearest and dearest. I have always blamed myself for Mrs Pratt’s death, and I suppose I was responsible for it in a way, though heaven knows I never wished her anything but long life and happiness. If I had not told that story she might be alive yet. That is why the thing screams at me, I fancy.
She was a good little woman, with a sweet temper, all things considered, and a nice gentle voice; but I remember hearing her shriek once when she thought her little boy was killed by a pistol that went off, though everyone was sure that it was not loaded.
It was the same scream; exactly the same, with a sort of rising quaver at the end; do you know what I mean? Unmistakable.
The truth is, I had not realized that the doctor and his wife were not on good terms. They used to bicker a bit now and then when I was here, and I often noticed that little Mrs Pratt got very red and bit her lip hard to keep her temper, while Luke grew pale and said the most offensive things. He was that sort when he was in the nursery, I remember and afterward at school. He was my cousin, you know; that is how I came by this house; after he died, and his boy Charley was killed in South Africa, there were no relations left. Yes, it’s a pretty little property, just the sort of thing for an old sailor like me who has taken to gardening.
One always remembers one’s mistakes much more vividly than one’s cleverest things, doesn’t one? I’ve often noticed it. I was dining with the Pratts one night, when I told them the story that afterwards made so much difference. It was a wet night in November, and the sea was moaning. Hush! – if you don’t speak you will hear it now…
Do you hear the tide? Gloomy sound, isn’t it? Sometimes, about this time of year – hallo! – there it is! Don’t be frightened, man – it won’t eat you – it’s only a noise, after all! But I’m glad you’ve heard it, because there are always people who think it’s the wind, or my imagination, or something. You won’t hear it again tonight, I fancy, for it doesn’t often come more than once. Yes – that’s right. Put another stick on the fire, and a little more stuff into that weak mixture you’re so fond of. Do you remember old Blauklot the carpenter, on that German ship that picked us up when the Clontarf went to the bottom? We were hove to in a howling gale one night, as snug as you please, with no land within five hundred miles, and the ship coming up and falling off as regularly as clockwork – ‘Biddy te boor beebles ashore tis night, poys!’ old Blauklot sang out, as he went off to his quarters with the sail-maker. I often think of that, now that I’m ashore for good and all.
Yes, it was on a night like this, when I was at home for a spell, waiting to take the Olympia out on her first trip – it was on the next voyage that she broke the record, you remember – but that dates it. Ninety-two was the year, early in November.
The weather was dirty, Pratt was out of temper, and the dinner was bad, very bad indeed, which didn’t improve matters, and cold, which made it worse. The poor little lady was very unhappy about it, and insisted on making a Welsh rarebit on the table to counteract the raw turnips and the half-boiled mutton. Pratt must have had a hard day. Perhaps he had lost a patient. At all events, he was in a nasty temper.
The Conjuring 1 and 2
Children of the Corn
Halloween Town High
The Devil’s Candy
The Haunting (of Hill House)
Hell House (Roddy McDowell)
Fright Night original and remake
The Wicker Man
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Sutherland)
Let’s Scare Jessica to Death
The Watcher in the Woods (Betty Davis)
The Reincarnation of Peter Proud
Julia (Mia Farrow)
The Changeling (George C Scott)
Witches of Eastwick
Escape to Witch Mountain
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House
I’ve been wanting to read this for years. You should join me! I found the very affordable Kindle edition (link below) and decided it’s time. Here’s a sample of the prose and some info on the book and the creepy 1987 film it inspired Starring Mickey Route, Lisa Bonet, and Robert DeNiro (as the Devil)…
Click thumbnails below to enlarge…
Following is a short writeup from toomuchhorrorfiction.com…
Hard-boiled crime writers like Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, and Raymond Chandler were vastly influential on a whole range of 20th century literature, except, I think, horror fiction. With their post-Hemingway style of terseness and understatement they seem to be the antithesis of horror writing. While these authors got their start in the pulp magazines of the pre-WWII era just like H.P. Lovecraft, it’s only been within the last 10 or 15 years that Lovecraft has been taken seriously by more mainstream academics, literary critics, and taste-makers, while those crime novelists have been lauded for decades.
But I don’t think it was until Falling Angel (Fawcett Popular Library 1982 edition above) that the genres of hardboiled crime and horror met, thanks to author William Hjortsberg. He has said he came up with the idea when in high school, winning an award for a short story whose first lines were “Once upon a time, the devil hired a private detective.” Brilliant.
Set in a wonderfully-depicted New York City 1959, Falling Angel is the story of hard-boozing private detective Harry Angel (“I always buy myself a drink after finding a body. It’s an old family custom”), hired by the mysterious Mr. Cyphre to find the missing ’40s crooner Johnny Favorite, a big band star very much like Sinatra. Horribly injured physically and psychologically while serving as an entertainer in the war, Johnny ends up in a VA hospital, but then disappears one night…
Angel tracks down Johnny’s former doctor, who then turns up dead; next Angel speaks to an old band member of Johnny’s, “Toots” Sweet (but of course) who tells him Johnny was mixed up in voodoo and the black arts, can you dig it, and crossed ethnic barriers no one dared cross in the 1940s when he became the lover of a voodoo priestess. Toots ends up dead too. Horribly dead. You get the picture. Angel ends up involved with the priestess’s daughter, Epiphany Proudfoot, a carnally-driven young woman who believes acrobatic sex is how we speak to the voodoo gods. Awesome.
There’s more; much more. Falling Angel is, in a word, spectacular. It’s inventive while playing by the “rules” of detective fiction; it’s appropriately bloody and violent; its unholy climax in an abandoned subway station is effectively unsettling and graphic.
Click on thumbnails below to enlarge…
Hjortsberg knows his hard-boiled lingo and the New York of the time and makes it all believable. This is no humorous pastiche or parody; it’s a stunning crime novel bled through with visceral horrors of the most personal and, in the end, damning kind.
[Review Source: toomuchhorrorfiction.com/Falling Angel Review
IT WAS FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH and yesterday’s snowstorm lingered in the streets like a leftover curse. The slush outside was ankle-deep. Across Seventh Avenue a treadmill parade of lightbulb headlines marched endlessly around Times Tower’s terra cotta façade: … HAWAII IS VOTED INTO UNION AS 50TH STATE: HOUSE GRANTS FINAL APPROVAL, 232 TO 89; EISENHOWER’S SIGNATURE OF BILL ASSURED … Hawaii, sweet land of pineapples and Haleloki; ukeleles strumming, sunshine and surf, grass skirts swaying in the tropical breeze.
I spun my chair around and stared out at Times Square. The Camels spectacular on the Claridge puffed fat steam smoke rings out over the snarling traffic. The dapper gentleman on the sign, mouth frozen in a round O of perpetual surprise, was Broadway’s harbinger of spring. Earlier in the week, teams of scaffold-hung painters transformed the smoker’s dark winter homburg and chesterfield overcoat into seersucker and panama straw; not as poetic as the Capistrano swallows, but it got the message across. My building was built before the turn of the century; a four-story brick pile held together with soot and pigeon dung. An Easter bonnet of billboards flourished on the roof, advertising flights to Miami and various brands of beer. There was a cigar store on the corner, a Pokerino parlor, two hot dog stands, and the Rialto Theatre, mid-block. The entrance was tucked between a peep-show bookshop and a novelty place, show windows stacked with whoopee cushions and plaster dog turds.
My office was two flights up, in a line with Olga’s Electrolysis, Teardrop Imports, Inc., and Ira Kipnis, C.P.A. Eight-inch gold letters gave me the edge over the others: CROSSROADS DETECTIVE AGENCY, a name I bought along with the business from Ernie Cavalero, who took me on as his legman back when I first hit the city during the war.
I was about to go out for coffee when the phone rang. “Mr. Harry Angel?” a distant secretary trilled. “Herman Winesap of McIntosh, Winesap, and Spy calling.”
I grunted something pleasant and she put me on hold.
Herman Winesap’s voice was as slick as the greasy kid stuff hair oil companies like to warn you about. He introduced himself as an attorney. That meant his fees were high. A guy calling himself a lawyer always costs a lot less. Winesap sounded so good I let him do most of the talking.
“The reason I called, Mr. Angel, was to ascertain whether your services were at present available for contract.”
“Would this be for your firm?”
“No. I’m speaking in behalf of one of our clients. Are you available for employment?”
“Depends on the job. You’ll have to give me some details.”
“My client would prefer to discuss them with you in person. He has suggested that you have lunch with him today. One o’clock sharp at the Top of the Six’s.”
“Maybe you’d like to give me the name of this client, or do I just look for some guy wearing a red carnation?”
“Have you a pencil handy? I’ll spell it for you.”
I wrote the name LOUIS CYPHRE on my desk pad and asked how to pronounce it.
Herman Winesap did a swell job, rolling his r’s like a Berlitz instructor. I asked if the client was a foreigner?
“Mr. Cyphre carries a French passport. I am not certain of his exact nationality. Any questions you might have no doubt he’ll be happy to answer at lunch. May I tell him to expect you?”
“I’ll be there, one o’clock sharp.”
Attorney Herman Winesap made some final unctuous remarks before signing off. I hung up and lit one of my Christmas Montecristos in celebration.
666 FIFTH AVENUE WAS an unhappy marriage of the International Style and our own homegrown tailfin technology. It had gone up two years before between 52nd and 53rd streets: a million square feet of office space sheathed in embossed aluminum panels. It looked like a forty-story cheese grater. There was a waterfall in the lobby, but that didn’t seem to help.
I took an express elevator to the top floor, got a number from the hatcheck girl, and admired the view while the maître d’ gave me the once-over like a government-meat inspector grading a side of beef. His finding Cyphre’s name in the reservation book didn’t exactly make us pals. I followed him back through a polite murmuring of executives to a small table by a window.
Seated there in a custom-made blue pin-stripe suit with a blood-red rosebud in his lapel was a man who might have been anywhere between forty-five and sixty. His hair was black and full, combed straight back on a high forehead, yet his square-cut goatee and pointed moustache were white as ermine. He was tanned and elegant; his eyes a distant, ethereal blue. A tiny, inverted golden star gleamed on his maroon silk necktie. “I’m Harry Angel,” I said, as the maître d’ pulled out my chair. “A lawyer named Winesap said there was something you wanted to speak to me about.”
“I like a man who’s prompt,” he said. “Drink?”
I ordered a double Manhattan, straight up; Cyphre tapped his glass with a manicured finger and said he’d have one more of the same. It was easy to imagine those pampered hands gripping a whip. Nero must have had such hands. And Jack the Ripper. It was the hand of emperors and assassins. Languid, yet lethal, the cruel, tapered fingers perfect instruments of evil.
When the waiter left, Cyphre leaned forward and fixed me with a conspirator’s grin. “I hate to bother with trivialities, but I’d like to see some identification before we get started.”
I got out my wallet and showed him my photostat and honorary chiefs button. “There’s a gun permit and driver’s license in there, too.”
He flipped through the celluloid card holders and when he handed back the wallet his smile was ten degrees whiter. “I prefer to take a man at his word, but my legal advisors insisted upon this formality.”
“It usually pays to play it safe.”
“Why, Mr. Angel, I would have thought you were a gambling man.”
“Only when I have to be.” I listened hard for any trace of an accent, but his voice was like polished metal, smooth and clean, as if it had been buffed with banknotes from the day he was born. “Suppose we get down to business,” I said. “I’m not much good at small talk.”
“Another admirable trait.” Cyphre withdrew a gold and leather cigar case from his inside breast pocket, opened it, and selected a slender, greenish panatela. “Care for a smoke?” I declined the proffered case and watched Cyphre trim the end of his cigar with a silver penknife.
“Do you by any chance remember the name Johnny Favorite?” he asked, warming the panatela’s slim length in the flame of his butane lighter.
I thought it over. “Wasn’t he a crooner with a swing band back before the war?”
“That’s the man. An overnight sensation, as the press agents like to say. Sang with the Spider Simpson orchestra in 1940. Personally, I loathed swing music and can’t recall the titles of his hit recordings; there were several, in any case. He created a near-riot at the Paramount Theatre two years before anyone ever heard of Sinatra. You should remember that, the Paramount’s over in your part of town.”
“Johnny Favorite’s before my time. In 1940, I was just out of high school, a rookie cop in Madison, Wisconsin.”
“From the Midwest? I would have taken you for a native New Yorker.”
“No such animal, at least not above Houston Street.”
“Very true.” Cyphre’s features were shrouded in blue smoke as he puffed his cigar. It smelled like excellent tobacco, and I regretted not taking one when I had the chance. “This is a city of outsiders,” he said. “I’m one myself.”
“Where are you from?” I asked.
“Let us say I’m a traveler.” Cyphre waved away a wreath of cigar smoke, flashing an emerald the Pope himself would have kissed.
“Fine with me. Why did you ask about Johnny Favorite?”
The waiter set our drinks on the table with less intrusion than a passing shadow.
“A pleasant voice, all things considered.” Cyphre raised his glass to eye level in a silent European toast. “As I said, I could never stomach swing music; too loud and jumpy for my taste. But Johnny sounded sweet as a caroler when he wanted to. I took him under my wing when he was first getting started. He was a brash, skinny kid from the Bronx. Mother and father both dead. His real name wasn’t Favorite, it was Jonathan Liebling. He changed it for professional reasons; Liebling wouldn’t have looked nearly as good in lights. Do you know what happened to him?”
I said I had no idea whatsoever.
“He was drafted in January ’43. Because of his professional talents, he was assigned to the Special Entertainment Services Branch and in March he joined a troop show in Tunisia. I’m not certain of the exact details; there was an air raid one afternoon during a performance. The Luftwaffe strafed the bandstand. Most of the troupe was killed. Johnny, through some quirk of fortune, escaped with facial and head injuries. Escaped is the wrong word. He was never the same again. I’m not a medical man, so I can’t be very precise about his condition. Some form of shell shock, I suppose.”
I said I knew something about shell shock myself.
“Really? Were you in the war, Mr. Angel?”
“For a few months right at the start. I was one of the lucky ones.”
“Well, Johnny Favorite was not. He was shipped home, a total vegetable.”
“That’s too bad,” I said, “but where do I fit in? What exactly do you want me to do?”
Cyphre stubbed out his cigar in the ashtray and toyed with the age-yellowed ivory holder. It was carved in the shape of a coiled serpent with the head of a crowing rooster. “Be patient with me, Mr. Angel. I’m getting to the point, however circuitously. I gave Johnny some help at the start of his career. I was never his agent, but I was able to use my influence in his behalf. In recognition of my assistance, which was considerable, we had a contract. Certain collateral was involved. This was to be forfeited in the event of his death. I’m sorry that I can’t be more explicit, but the terms of our agreement specified that the details remain confidential.
“In any event, Johnny’s case was hopeless. He was sent to a veteran’s hospital in New Hampshire and it seemed as if he would spend the remainder of his life in a ward, one of the unfortunate discards of war. But Johnny had friends and money, a good deal of money. Although he was by nature profligate, his earnings for the two years prior to his induction were considerable; more than any one man could squander. Some of this money was invested, with Johnny’s agent having power of attorney.”
“The plot begins to grow complicated,” I said.
“Indeed it does, Mr. Angel.” Cyphre tapped his ivory cigar holder absently against the rim of his empty glass, making the crystal chime like distant bells. “Friends of Johnny’s had him transferred to a private hospital upstate. There was some sort of radical treatment. Typical psychiatric hocus-pocus, I suppose. The end result was the same; Johnny remained a zombie. Only the expenses came out of his pockets instead of the government’s.”
“Do you know the names of these friends?”
“No. I hope you won’t consider me entirely mercenary when I tell you that my continuing interest in Jonathan Liebling concerns only our contractual arrangement. I never saw Johnny again after he went away to war. All that mattered was whether he was alive or dead. Once or twice each year, my attorneys contact the hospital and obtain from them a notarized affidavit stating he is indeed still among the living. This situation remained unchanged until last weekend.”
“What happened then?”
“Something very curious. Johnny’s hospital is outside Poughkeepsie. I was in that vicinity on business and, quite on the spur of the moment, decided to pay my old acquaintance a visit. Perhaps I wanted to see what sixteen years in bed does to a man. At the hospital, I was told visiting hours were on weekday afternoons only. I insisted, and the doctor in charge made an appearance. He informed me that Johnny was undergoing special therapy and could not be disturbed until the following Monday.”
I said: “Sounds like you were getting the runaround.”
“Indeed. There was something about the fellow’s manner I didn’t like.” Cyphre slipped his cigar holder into his vest pocket and folded his hands on the table. “I stayed over in Poughkeepsie until Monday and returned to the hospital, making certain to arrive during visiting hours. I never saw the doctor again, but when I gave Johnny’s name, the girl at the reception desk asked if I was a relative. Naturally, I said no. She said only family members were permitted to visit with the patients.”
“No mention of this the previous time around?”
“Not a word. I grew quite indignant. I’m afraid I made something of a scene. That was a mistake. The receptionist threatened to call the police unless I left immediately.”
“What did you do?”
“I left. What else could I do? It’s a private hospital. I didn’t want any trouble. That’s why I’m engaging your services.”
“You want me to go up there and check it out for you?”
“Exactly.” Cyphre gestured expansively, turning his palms upward like a man showing he has nothing to hide. “First, I need to know if Johnny Favorite is still alive—that’s essential. If he is, I’d like to know where.”
I reached inside my jacket and got out a small leather-bound notebook and a mechanical pencil. “Sounds simple enough. What’s the name and address of the hospital?”
“The Emma Dodd Harvest Memorial Clinic; it’s located east of the city on Pleasant Valley Road.”
I wrote it down and asked the name of the doctor who gave Cyphre the runaround.
“Fowler. I believe the first name was either Albert or Alfred.”
I made a note of it. “Is Favorite registered under his actual name?”
“Yes. Jonathan Liebling.
“That should do it.” I put the notebook back and got to my feet. “How can I get in touch with you?”
“Through my attorney would be best.” Cyphre smoothed his moustache with the tip of his forefinger. “But you’re not leaving? I thought we were having lunch.”
“Hate to miss a free meal, but if I get started right away I can make it up to Poughkeepsie before quitting time.”
“Hospitals don’t keep business hours.”
“The office staff does. Any cover I use depends on it. It’ll cost you money if I wait until Monday. I get fifty dollars a day, plus expenses.”
“Sounds reasonable for a job well done.”
“The job will get done. Satisfaction guaranteed. I’ll give Winesap a call as soon as anything turns up.”
“Perfect. A pleasure meeting you, Mr. Angel.”
The maître d’ was still sneering when I stopped for my overcoat and attaché case on the way out.
To Read the rest of this book, you can grab a copy at the link below! (And remember the Kindle reading app is free for PC, tablet, iOS, and Android.)
Great film review of Angel Heart (Watch the Film’s Trailer at the end of this post.)
Get the Book
I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth–
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witch’s broth–
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.
What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?–
If design govern in a thing so small.
—Robert Frost, 1936
I don’t have too many favorite writers in horror and the like…but Eric J. Guignard is one of them. He is NOT a writer to miss! Link to this book is below.
I never heard of basilisks ‘til the night of Murrell’s barn dance, but that was the night I met Rosalie, so the basilisks sorta took a back seat in my thoughts. I think it was Ronny Loom who told me, though his brother, Carter, was there too, and they’re one ’n the same, being just a year apart and closer than spittin’ twins.
“Poppa told me basilisks are crossing the Nolichucky River,” Ronny said. “Heard Lilac and some men from Kingsport bagged half a dozen already, but more keep showing up. Lilac says they’re worth more’n cougar pelts.”
“That old trapper’s still around?” I asked, more interested in hearing ’bout him than gabbing on new mountain game. Legend was, Lilac Zollinger had once been engaged to my great-granny Lizbeth, but Great-Grandpa Micajah dueled him for her hand and won, leaving Lilac with a bullet in the shoulder.
He healed, except for his pride, which supposing got wounded the most. “Heard Lilac caught the scythe two summers ago by way of momma grizzly.”
“He survived that,” Carter said. “Thought everyone knew.”
Me and the Looms passed under the banner for Murrell’s dance and into his barn. Its double red doors were shuttered open and breathing yellow light like a hell cat, silhouetting straw-hatted farmers and their bonnet-hatted wives.
“Harv Ridout says Lilac won’t sleep under a roof, but rather beds down amongst the trees each night so he won’t soften up like us townies,” Ronny said.
Carter added, “Harv Ridout says Lilac punched a wolf that was fightin’ him over a cottontail.”
I rolled my eyes. “Harv Ridout’s got less sense—”
The sudden scream of fiddle severed my words, then the clang of guitar followed, and soon a gaggle of folks lined the varnished floor kickin’ up their legs like a train of asses. I never cared much for dancing and don’t know what others see in it. It’s not like kissin’ or anything, not even a little, and I should know ‘cause I done both. Dancing, you’re not even allowed to touch girls ‘cept on their hands, or Pastor Wright’ll whip your bottom scorched as Hell’s eternal fury for such a sin.
That’s when a girl I never seen before swung from the dance line, twirling delicate as a marigold bloom. Right away, my insides turned light and fizzy, like if ever I thought to float on moonlit mist, now would be the moment. She was tall and skinny, like me, but her hair went dark, and her eyes shone like copper pennies set in fire ‘til they glowed and sizzled. She wore a dress pretty as first snow, and it clung to her in the middle and billowed out everywhere else as she moved.
Truth was, I never felt that way looking at a girl before, not even when kissing Aimee Greenwood last Harvest Day. I only kissed Aimee ‘cause she started it, but I liked it too, though how it felt didn’t compare a blue belle to how seeing this new girl weave and bow to each man in line did. Suddenly I felt dancing would be the greatest thing in the world, especially if with her.
“New girl in town,” Ronny and Carter said together. “Heard her name is Rosalie Jacobs.”
“Rosalie,” I repeated, and I wondered where she came from. In Whaleyville, everyone knew everyone—even new folks—but she was a puzzler.
Murrell’s barn was stuffy hot that night, and the back of my neck stuck to the shirt collar with sweat. I ran a checkered sleeve across my forehead and it came away damp and grimy, though I still felt my best in over two years, since that terrible day at the revival.
“I’m gonna ask her to dance,” I vowed. But no sooner had the words been spoke did that vow fall to bitter ash when I saw Rosalie link arms with Luke Holder.
Ronny and Carter shook their heads somber as grave diggers. Luke Holder was older’n us, sized the three of us together, and meaner than a pecker full of sin. It was the cruel joke of the county that he was good looking too, with a big, perfect smile that made gals do funny things, and with eyes blue as winter quartz: cold and hard and sharp enough to cut, should you fall on ‘em the wrong way.
“Hellfire,” I muttered.
Click here to read the remainder of this great story and support this Anthology by picking up a copy…very affordable and worth it…