Return of the Swallows, a Creepy Short Story by Norman Prentiss—Part of His “Apocolypse a Day” Blog Series…

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Return of the Swallows

Every year, at the end of a week of festivities, a flock of migratory swallows used to arrive at the Great Stone Church in San Juan Capistrano, greeted with cheers from sightseers. The sky was black with the shapes of birds returning from winter in Goya, Argentina. The swallows built nests beneath the arches and eaves of the ruined church.

In recent years, few swallows came to the Mission San Juan Capistrano. Restoration of parts of the ruined church destroyed many nests and nesting places. Man-made nests were placed beneath a prominent archway, hoping to tempt annual visitors, but the effort failed.

The celebrations continue, however. Tourists from all over gather to celebrate the week-long Fiesta de las Golondrinas, and on March 19 (the feast of St. Joseph), mariachi bands and Spanish and Native American dancers entertain the vast crowd. At noon, a bell-ringing ceremony commences, calling the birds. Perhaps a few will come, but never in the tremendous numbers of the past.

“We are always looking for them,” a resident says this year, her face brimming with unfounded hope.

Tourists turn to the bank of bell towers, raising their phones to record the clamor. They photograph the swinging ropes, the clappers striking metal bells, the scenic sun-dappled stone of the ruined church, but few of them bother to look to the sky.

A shadow falls over the Mission, darkening the images on camera and cell phone screens. A distant, overhead squawking begins to soar over the clamor of the bells.

“They’re back,” someone yells, and cameras and phones swivel, necks crane upward.

Like in years past, like in the famous song, the swallows come back to Capistrano.

The sky is almost entirely black, but it is a black that ripples like an ocean. Wings flap, and the cry of multiple birds is so loud that many tourists cover their ears. The bellringers stop pulling the ropes, so the birds make the only sound.

It is not a birdsong or mating call. The birds sound angry.

“This is more than I remember,” an old gentleman remarks. “Many, many more.”

It’s as if there is not enough room in the sky. The birds fight for space, and the dark ocean of feathers seethes with violent waves.

A group of tourists scream and jump away from where they’ve been standing. On the ground, a dying bird flaps its wings. Its eyes have been pecked out. The feather pattern, usually a mix of grays with white patches, is entirely dark with grime, as if the bird has been rolled in tar or oil. The bird has four legs that struggle in the air as it dies.

Other birds begin to fall from the sky, their grime-soaked bodies pecked and bleeding, some with two eyes pecked out, but another pair above, blinking; most with extra legs, a few with an extra head.

Tourists and locals alike seek shelter amid the ruined stones of the Mission, unaware what disaster struck in the southern hemisphere…only to migrate here in a dark, bilious cloud, then continue to spread as dead and dying birds rain onto the church courtyard.

– Norman Prentiss, March 19, 2017

Read More of Norman Prentiss’ Horror Fiction here…

Coming Soon from Dark Regions Press! The Red Brain: Great Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos (ed. Joshi)

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(Dark Regions Press)

The Red Brain: Great Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos Edited by S. T. Joshi, a follow-up anthology to A Mountain Walked. The book will be available in ebook, trade paperback and a deluxe slipcased edition designed to match the slipcased collector’s edition of A Mountain Walked so that both volumes line up nicely on the shelf.

Featuring stories from Ramsey Campbell, Thomas Ligotti, Caitlín R. Kiernan, W. H. Pugmire, Mark Samuels, Ray Garton Clark Ashton Smith and more, The Red Brain will be offered for preorder on Tuesday, May 2nd 2017 in our upcoming Cthulhu Mythos campaign!

http://www.darkregions.com/news/may-2nd-cthulhu-mythos-books-campaign-six-new-titles-dark-regions-press

 

 

The Temple of Death: The Ghost Stories of A. C. Benson & R. H. Benson, TOC

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Table of Contents

3 • The Temple of Death • (1903) • short story by A. C. Benson
19 • The Closed Window • (1903) • short story by A. C. Benson
29 • The Slype House • (1904) • short story by A. C. Benson
43 • The Red Camp • (1903) • short story by A. C. Benson
63 • Out of the Sea • (1904) • short story by A. C. Benson
75 • The Grey Cat • (1903) • short story by A. C. Benson
89 • The Hill of Trouble • (1903) • short story by A. C. Benson
105 • Basil Netherby • (1926) • novelette by A. C. Benson
129 • The Uttermost Farthing • (1926) • novelette by A. C. Benson
177 • The Watcher • (1903) • short story by R. H. Benson
183 • The Blood-Eagle • (1903) • short story by R. H. Benson
191 • Consolatrix Afflictorum • (1903) • short story by R. H. Benson
197 • Over the Gateway • (1903) • short story by R. H. Benson
203 • Father Meuron’s Tale • (1907) • short story by R. H. Benson
211 • Father Macclesfield’s Tale • (1907) • short story by R. H. Benson
219 • The Traveller • (1903) • short story by R. H. Benson

The First Orbit Book of Horror Stories edited by Richard Davis (ca. 1970s), TOC

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Big, Wide, Wonderful World • [Shock Short] • (1958) • short story by Charles E. Fritch
Burger Creature • (1973) • short story by Stepan Chapman [as by Steve Chapman]
Forget-Me-Not • (1975) • novelette by Bernard Taylor
Halloween Story • (1972) • short story by Gregory Fitz Gerald
Judas Story • (1975) • novelette by Brian Stableford [as by Brian M. Stableford]
S.F. • (1975) • short story by T. E. D. Klein
Satanesque • (1974) • short story by Allan Weiss
The House of Cthulhu • [Cthulhu Mythos] • (1973) • short story by Brian Lumley
The Man in the Underpass • (1975) • short story by Ramsey Campbell
The Taste of Your Love • [Liefde’s Kronkelwegen • 2] • (1975) • short story by Eddy C. Bertin (trans. of De Smaak van Jouw Liefde 1971)
The Whimper of Whipped Dogs • (1973) • short story by Harlan Ellison
Uncle Vlad • (1973) • short story by Clive Sinclair
Wake Up Dead • (1975) • short story by Tim Stout
Introduction (The First Orbit Book of Horror Stories) • essay by Richard Davis

Reassuring Tales by T. E. D. Klein, TOC

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7 • Introduction (Reassuring Tales) • (2006) • essay by T. E. D. Klein
17 • Camera Shy • (1988) • short story by T. E. D. Klein
27 • Growing Things • (1999) • short story by T. E. D. Klein
33 • Curtains for Nat Crumley • (1996) • short story by T. E. D. Klein
51 • Magic Carpet • (1976) • short story by T. E. D. Klein
57 • One Size Eats All • (1993) • short story by T. E. D. Klein
63 • Ladder • (1990) • short story by T. E. D. Klein
77 • Well-Connected • (1987) • short story by T. E. D. Klein
93 • S.F. • (1975) • short story by T. E. D. Klein
111 • They Don’t Write ’em Like This Anymore: A TV Treatment in Two Versions • (1989) • short story by T. E. D. Klein
121 • The Events at Poroth Farm • (1972) • novella by T. E. D. Klein

Dark Forces edited by Kirby McCauley, TOC…a Superb Horror Anthology, TOC

Table of Contents

ix • Introduction (Dark Forces) • (1980) • essay by Kirby McCauley
1 • The Late Shift • (1980) • short story by Dennis Etchison
18 • The Enemy • (1980) • short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer
27 • Dark Angel • (1980) • short story by Edward Bryant
44 • The Crest of Thirty-six • (1980) • short story by Davis Grubb
56 • Mark Ingestre: The Customer’s Tale • (1980) • short story by Robert Aickman
77 • Where the Summer Ends • (1980) • novelette by Karl Edward Wagner
106 • The Bingo Master • (1980) • short story by Joyce Carol Oates
129 • Children of the Kingdom • (1980) • novella by T. E. D. Klein
196 • The Detective of Dreams • (1980) • short story by Gene Wolfe
214 • Vengeance Is. • (1980) • short story by Theodore Sturgeon
222 • The Brood • (1980) • short story by Ramsey Campbell
235 • The Whistling Well • (1980) • novelette by Clifford D. Simak
263 • The Peculiar Demesne • (1980) • novelette by Russell Kirk
292 • Where the Stones Grow • (1980) • short story by Lisa Tuttle
306 • The Night Before Christmas • (1980) • novelette by Robert Bloch
327 • The Stupid Joke • (1980) • short fiction by Edward Gorey
342 • A Touch of Petulance • (1980) • short story by Ray Bradbury
353 • Lindsay and the Red City Blues • (1980) • short story by Joe Haldeman
369 • A Garden of Blackred Roses • (1980) • novelette by Charles L. Grant
391 • Owls Hoot in the Daytime • [John the Balladeer] • (1980) • short story by Manly Wade Wellman
404 • Where There’s a Will • (1980) • short story by Richard Matheson and Richard Christian Matheson
412 • Traps • (1980) • short story by Gahan Wilson
419 • The Mist • (1980) • novella by Stephen King

A Century of Horror, 1970-1979 TOC

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1 • Introduction (A Century of Horror 1970-1979) • essay by Stefan Dziemianowicz
7 • Duel • (1971) • novelette by Richard Matheson
30 • The Dripping • (1972) • short story by David Morrell
39 • The Events at Poroth Farm • (1972) • novella by T. E. D. Klein
81 • Come Dance with Me on My Pony’s Grave • (1973) • short story by Charles L. Grant
94 • Something Had to Be Done • (1975) • short story by David Drake
100 • Sticks • [Cthulhu Mythos] • (1974) • novelette by Karl Edward Wagner
120 • Belsen Express • (1975) • short story by Fritz Leiber
133 • Ladies in Waiting • (1975) • short story by Hugh B. Cave
143 • Armaja Das • (1976) • short story by Joe Haldeman
161 • A Case of the Stubborns • (1976) • short story by Robert Bloch
177 • It Only Comes Out at Night • (1976) • short story by Dennis Etchison
190 • The Viaduct • non-genre • (1976) • short story by Brian Lumley
207 • Night-Side • (1977) • novelette by Joyce Carol Oates
232 • Best Interests • (1978) • short story by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
245 • Gotcha! • (1978) • short story by Ray Bradbury
253 • The Man Who Was Heavily into Revenge • (1978) • short story by Harlan Ellison
267 • Divers Hands • [Julian] • (1979) • novelette by Darrell Schweitzer
292 • Eumenides in the Fourth Floor Lavatory • (1979) • novelette by Orson Scott Card (variant of Eumenides in the Fourth-Floor Lavatory)
308 • Red as Blood • (1979) • short story by Tanith Lee
319 • Mackintosh Willy • (1979) • short story by Ramsey Campbell
334 • Seasons of Belief • (1979) • short story by Michael Bishop