Ania Ahlborn’s The Devil Crept In Is Horrifyingly Real

Ania Ahlborn’s The Devil Crept In Is Horrifyingly Real

Ania Ahlborn’s The Devil Crept In is horrifyingly real and frightening enough to make readers avoid rural Oregon, or woods in general, for that matter.

I jest about the woods as I look at my own patch of dark trees in the yard at twilight and cannot help but worry what might be lurking in there; thanks, Ania.

The Devil Crept In centers around Stevie, one of the best protagonists you could ever have the pleasure to meet.

The following Book Review Of The Devil Crept In Contains **Spoilers** But Not Of The Ending

Stevie is a young boy of around eight or nine, who is likely on the spectrum, has no friends, but one – his cousin, Jude – because of speech difficulties and the missing the bulk of the fingers on his right hand a la Roland Deschain.

Despite his father’s abandoning Stevie, his mother, and his older brother, because of Stevie’s Mom refusing to treat the panic attacks and breakdowns, and despite the physically abusive step-father that is only present to pay the bills and torment his wife and youngest step-child, Stevie remains a good kid.

Sure, he goofs off, he disobeys his parent’s requests, and he goes off on unsanctioned adventures with Jude, but all that is normal kid stuff, and at his core he is very empathetic toward others and genuinely worries over animals and people alike.

The setting in Oregon, from the lush trails and old overgrown paths to the mossy-roof of what is seemingly an abandoned house on the edge of the forest is enveloping.

The characters, from the shop keeper trying to warn Stevie of the danger out in those woods, to Stevie’s horrible older brother – who makes him swear to not have seen the hand job his girlfriend was giving him at the movie theater – are too familiar.

They are too real.

The thought of Stevie’s step-father Terry, a real monster in human form, and the sound of his belt being unbuckled to whip Stevie makes me squirm.

This tale is based on a reality so solid you feel as though you could move there and lose your dog in no time as well.

Stevie worries over people being okay and seems to care for those around him with a golden ability that many young people possess, even if they hide it.

Stevie’s older cousin Jude, on the other hand, is two years Stevie’s senior, and is the small Oregon town of Deer Valley’s brash malcontent.

And for all of Jude’s harsh words, like making fun of Stevie’s speech impediment, he is the only one that has showed any desire to spend time with the boy who lost much of his right hand in a garbage disposal.

When Jude goes missing, Stevie’s world is decimated.

He feels utterly alone.

He seeks frantically to find out what has happened to his only friend, not knowing what his investigations into the long-abandoned trails in the wooded town might bring.

ania ahlborn, small press, The Devil Crept In, fine press, horror, scifi

Around this time, he sees an animal-like creature around this time, that he describes as a yeti, for lack of any other comparable being.

But the adults in his life do not listen to him.

His are the ravings of a madman in a child’s body; a clearly disturbed boy.

Stevie learns of the missing pets in the town.

What kind of town has virtually no pets among them?

The kind of town, surrounded by woods, that is hungry.

The yeti, it turns out, was born out of a night terror rape with what may have been Satan.

A soon-to-be single mother sought refuge from a biker-run crash house, and an old Dead-head one percenter named Rasputin was too kind to grant her wishes.

One night under his care, and nine months later, the white hairy ape-like human is the result.

He is very real. He eats flesh from whatever he can chew. He is not quite human.

The lesson: listen to kids, not the town’s communal rumor mill.

The sad truth is that small towns often look away from the truth as easily as adults ignore what children say.

And children, like the truth, should be heeded.

Ania Ahlborn brings one of my new favorite protagonists, Stevie, and the reader through an agonizing range of emotions, from desperation and exasperation to fear and the internal debate over the compulsion to need to act violently to save one’s self and others.

My only critique is that I would have loved to see a little more of the bearded Rasputin, who appears a couple of times in the book, briefly.

But the imagination certainly spins, like a possessed head, with the thoughts of the possibilities that lurk in and around the character Rasputin.

In Ania Ahlborn’s The Devil Crept In, the reality is set before the reader, as if it is perched on a stone, and when it shakes or falls, the story jars us heavily.


The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)


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“Ania Ahlborn’s The Devil Crept In Is Horrifyingly Real” was written by R.J. Huneke

 

Cemetery Dance Limited Edition AGE NIGHT SHIFT By Stephen King

Cemetery Dance Limited Edition AGE NIGHT SHIFT By Stephen King

Cemetery Dance Limited Edition AGE Night Shift By Stephen King is a deserving fine press production of the author’s first collection of short stories, and there are two added bonus shorts included that were not published by the Doubleday edition!

The short stories are all extraordinary and many are wholly groundbreaking for what horror could evolve to be.

Better put, Sai King’s stories hit on so many different levels and are so impactful that many traditional views of literary prowess were thrown out of the window screaming.

Most of these stories were originally published as stand-alone pieces in men’s magazines.

One exception is the very first story Stephen King got paid for, “The Glass Floor,” that was originally published in the Autumn 1967 issue of Startling Mystery Stories.

That and the introduction in the Bonus section of CD’s Night Shift, alone, is worth the price of admission.

Cemetery Dance Night Shift SPOILERS ahead*

To hear the writer talk about his experience getting rejections and receiving that first check is just remarkable.

This review will touch on two of the short stories held within and give an in-depth look at the small press production of the book itself, the limited deluxe Artist Gift Edition of Night Shift, masterfully produced by Cemetery Dance Publications.

And we will look at two of the weirdest and most fun shorts!

Enter “The Lawnmower Man.”

Cemetery Dance Limited Edition AGE Night Shift, Night Shift, stephen king, chris odgers, Cemetery Dance, fine press

Easily as strange and hilarious and horrific a tale as can be constructed on ancient mythic gods and modern civilization’s obsession with keeping the home’s grass meticulously tended, “The Lawnmower Man” offers mystery, suspense, humor, and an otherworldly sense of dreaming while awake.

How or why someone decided to make a movie using the title alone and throwing out the insanity of the nude grass gobbling antagonist that makes the story is beyond all rational thought, but it happened.

This story proved that like Lovecraft and Poe, King could touch on ancient gods of yore, or wholly make up his own mythology in the modern world, and the charm of it all comes down to the characters caught within.

To date, I can think of no other story remotely like “The Lawnmower Man” – one of the highest compliments I give.

The next work is another favorite of mine that was touched on by TFF before in the One Of Us review, here: “I Am The Doorway.”

Cemetery Dance Limited Edition AGE Night Shift, Night Shift, stephen king, chris odgers, Cemetery Dance, fine press

Another innovative tale is spawned circa the Space Race to the moon and beyond.

It merges science-fiction and the macabre in a painfully realistic manner.

Why does realism come to mind?

Space seems to be a lifeless void and a quiet vacuum, but the reaches outside the earth’s atmosphere are the truest unknown.

The astronaut here recalls little of his voyage to Venus that might note any apparent cause for his current murderous predicament.

But it is the only explanation.

Unlike so many sci-fi voyages and tales, Stephen King attaches the things beyond human understanding.

What could be more terrifying than intelligent entities, that manifest themselves like alien spores, a disease, or a parasite, in the form of eyes that continue to sprout from the searing, itching fingers of their space traveling host.

We cannot send life into space, but that does not mean that rabid rabies-like pathogens, or non-carbon-based life forms cannot live there, cannot hunt there for a way onto the earth to feed.

The astronaut is their doorway to the earth, and as far-fetched as that terrifying premise may seem, its sheer plausibility is solidified in that we cannot for sure say that the Eyes outside Venus’ atmosphere are an impossibility.

Truth be told, I would have loved to hear more about the astronaut in space in the story, but what King leaves to the imagination has me thinking about this one as I reread it again and again, shivering and itching between my thumb and forefinger.

All of the varying dark and spectacular shorts – from “Jerusalem’s Lot” to “Children of the Corn” to “Weeds” (the last bonus story in the volume) – are worth rereading and enjoying alongside the stunning artwork of Chris Odgers in CD’s Night Shift AGE.

For the $95 price-point CD’s Night Shift AGE gets an 11/10 score.

Cemetery Dance Limited Edition AGE Night Shift, Night Shift, stephen king, chris odgers, Cemetery Dance, fine press

Limited to just 3000 books, each of the short stories feature well thought out and deeply impactful original art from Chris Odgers, and they stand out in the oversized deluxe design of 7 X 10 inches.

The faux leather brown of the book and the matching slipcase make the green and gold foil stamping really pop, as does the offset two color interior printing, and the thick, quality paper.

Cemetery Dance Limited Edition AGE Night Shift, Night Shift, stephen king, chris odgers, Cemetery Dance, fine press

There are many bonus materials deservingly given to this book, a piece of literary history, including:

  • a foreword by Stephen King
  • an introduction by John D. MacDonald
  • a brand new afterword by Stewart O’Nan
  • two bonus stories (“The Glass Floor” and “Weeds”) that have never appeared in any edition anywhere in the world

And as CD’s Night Shift Artist Gift Edition is meant to highlight the tales with the paired art, the black and white illustrations are fine art that perfectly encompass the respective works being emanated to strong and stark imagery.

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)


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“Cemetery Dance Limited Edition AGE NIGHT SHIFT By Stephen King” was written by R.J. Huneke

 

 

Book Review: Timeline By Michael Crichton 5/5 Stars

Book Review: Timeline By Michael Crichton 5/5 Stars

Book Review: Timeline By Michael Crichton 5/5 Stars; leave it to Crichton to revitalize the past with such a vigorous and entertaining novel and a possible prescience for the infinite possibilities of science.

Timeline carries the reader into a realm of unexpected suspense and danger, often altering our most fundamental ideas of what is truly possible.

This magnificent adventure combines a science of the future – the emerging field of quantum technology – with the complex realities of the medieval past.

Timeline Will Now Be Discussed With Mild SPOILERS (the ending is not discussed)**

Michael Crichton’s Timeline opens on the threshold of the twenty-first century. It is a world – our present, mind you – exploding in advances of technology.

A daring tech company has succeeded in creating a quantum computer. With the near-instantaneous computing commutation and revolutionary massive data banks, the company has managed the long-awaited sci-fi dream of “copying” an entire person.

Not only that, but they also managed to manipulate and enlarge quantum foam particles. Combing these two remarkable feats they are able to send a person through a wormhole in space between two quantum foam particles – much like a fax machine.

The quantum world is an interesting place, one that scientists still don’t fully understand today. It can behave very differently than the physical world we know. Crichton explores this new frontier and includes many interesting footnotes for curious readers to follow up with.

Crichton dared to imagine a possibility of quantum foam wormholes connecting to a plethora of universes where different time periods all exist simultaneously.

This remarkable adventure is not technically time travel, but rather the ability to travel to a nearly identical past.

ITC’s CEO Robert Doniger, inventor of this quantum technology, believes people of the twentieth century will grow bored of current entertainment and crave anything that isn’t controlled by corporations. He argues people will turn to the past for rare and desirable experiences of authenticity.

Therefore, the future is in the past. And he plans to sell these authentic trips to the past, like tycoon John Hammond’s Jurassic Park or Walt Disney’s Disneyland.

ITC has been steadily buying up property around the world and funding archeological digs to learn more about possible “time travel” locations.

We meet our university protagonists at a dig in France. When pressed about funding, ITC allows Professor Edward Johnson to explore his exact dig in fourteenth century France using their quantum technology.

When the professor doesn’t return, only a group of his graduate students are his best chance of survival. This group has been given the chance of a lifetime: not just to study the past, but to enter it. However, they may find themselves fighting for their own survival – six hundred years ago during the Hundred Years War.

Crichton remains a master of narrative drive and cleverness; there’s never a dull moment.

Excitement runs high during the rescue attempt and higher still as Crichton invests his story with terrific period detail: castles, sword-play, jousts, sudden death and bold knights-in-shining-armor.

There is also strong suspense as Crichton cuts between past and present, where the time-travel machine has broken: Will the heroes survive and make it back?

Best of all, the medieval setting is highly accurate and described well.

This alone makes the book a worthwhile read, especially for those who are unfamiliar or only somewhat familiar with the Middle Ages.

Crichton effectively addresses some common misconceptions about medieval life. He presents the reader with a vivid picture that is at times much more attractive, and at other times much more frightening and repellent, than that is generally presented to us in popular fiction and film.

Crichton truly managed to bring the Middle Ages to life.

Timeline was made into a feature-length, theatrical-release movie, directed by Richard Donner and starring Paul Walker, Frances O’Connor, Gerard Butler, Billy Connolly and David Thewlis.

But if you want to see it, you will have to look back into your past to do it.

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)


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timeline, Book Review, Michael Crichton, adventure, quantum, book reviews

“Book Review: Timeline By Michael Crichton 5/5 Stars” was written by Peter Maisano.


Synopsis from Goodreads:

In an Arizona desert, a man wanders in a daze, speaking words that make no sense. Within twenty-four hours he is dead, his body swiftly cremated by his only known associates. Halfway around the world, archaeologists make a shocking discovery at a medieval site. Suddenly they are swept off to the headquarters of a secretive multinational corporation that has developed an astounding technology. Now this group is about to get a chance not to study the past but to enter it. And with history opened up to the present, the dead awakened to the living, these men and women will soon find themselves fighting for their very survival — six hundred years ago.

Mass Market Paperback, 489 pages
Published June 2000 by Arrow Books (first published November 16th 1999)

 

 

The Forgotten Fiction ANNOUNCEMENT SCHEDULE 3-2021 To 8-2021

The Forgotten Fiction ANNOUNCEMENT SCHEDULE 3-2021 To 8-2021

The Forgotten Fiction ANNOUNCEMENT SCHEDULE 3-2021 To 6-2021: we are going keep TFF’s Eager Readers up to snuff with all of the happenings, from book reviews, to guest reviewers, to giveaway contests, to Rune Works reader-inspired creations.

BIG THINGS Coming To TFF!

Seeing how TFF has grown immensely in just a few short months and less than a year since its launch, I want to thank you all for your support and shared enthusiasm for all that we love as bibliophiles.


ANNOUNCEMENT SCHEDULE 3-2021 To 8-2021

 

  • March 30, 2021 @ 12pm EST

    • TFF Book Giveaway Contest Is Announced & Opened To Enter Free

  • April 5, 2021 @ 1pm EST

    • TFF Livestream & Giveaway Contest Drawing

  • April 28, 2021 @ 1pm EST

    • TFF Book Giveaway Contest Is Announced & Opened To Enter Free

  • May 4, 2021 @ 1pm EST

    • TFF Livestream & Giveaway Contest Drawing

  • May 26, 2021 @ 1pm EST

    • TFF Book Giveaway Contest Is Announced & Opened To Enter Free

  • June 1, 2021 @ 1pm EST

    • TFF Livestream & Giveaway Contest Drawing

  • June 30, 2021 @ 1pm EST

    • TFF Book Giveaway Contest Is Announced & Opened To Enter Free

  • July 6, 2021 @ 1pm EST

    • TFF Livestream & Giveaway Contest Drawing

  • July 28, 2021 @ 1pm EST

    • TFF Book Giveaway Contest Is Announced & Opened To Enter Free

  • August 3, 2021 @ 1pm EST

    • TFF Livestream & Giveaway Contest Drawing

  • August 25, 2021 @ 1pm EST

    • TFF Book Giveaway Contest Is Announced & Opened To Enter Free


And so we will be doing a monthly livestream, via Facebook Live, and in that brief time I will share news for upcoming book reviews and RW Cases or other creations, as well as finish each session with a drawing to choose a winner for a free giveaway contest.

What did I just say?!

Well, yeah, every month there will be a free to enter TFF Giveaway Contest taking place the week before the livestream.

I love reading, and TFF will be spreading the love!

stephen king signature, traycase, Custom Book Case, custom slipcase, hand-made, Dolso, the stand, stephen king, bernie wrightson, trashcan man

The prizes will get better and better – wait until you see this month’s contest! – and most often there will be a choice for the winner (or winners, when we mix it up) to choose from so that if we are giving away books you can hopefully get something you do not have.

Quite a few brilliant authors are interested in writing book reviews on all sorts of fiction.

I spoke briefly last week on Elizabeth Yoo’s upcoming reviews of 1960’s Italian fiction that she will blow us away with, but so much more than that is on the horizon, and since I love almost every type of fiction out there, from horror and sci-fi to historical fiction, there will always be a fun variety to peruse.

So in this site’s NEWS section I will post a TFF Quarterly ANNOUNCEMENT SCHEDULE and I will feature them in a pulldown from the site menu under NEWS too.

What is coming up?

stephen king signature, traycase, Custom Book Case, custom slipcase, hand-made, Dolso, the stand, stephen king, bernie wrightson, trashcan man

Well, besides the monthly contests, I will pick a book of the month that either was or is going to be reviewed during the livestream – a teaser, if you will – and I would like to start some Q/A time too (maybe not every time), but I will play that by ear. I love to live in the moment, so we will see where things take us.

Coming up next in book reviews…

In no particular order, except that CD’s NIGHT SHIFT by Stephen King is almost certainly next, here are the book-newcomers to The Forgotten Fiction magazine:

  • NIGHT SHIFT by Stephen King – Cemetery Dance Gift Edition
  • Ready Player One By Ernest Cline – Lettered Edition By Curious King Books
  • Seed By Ania Ahlborn – Numbered Edition By Suntup Editions
  • Crackle and Fire: An Angela Hardwicke Mystery By Russ Colchamiro – By Crazy 8 Press
  • Alice By Lewis Carroll – Numbered Edition by Amaranthine Books
  • Later By Stephen King – Numbered Edition By Hard Case Crime
  • A Scanner Darkly By Philip K. Dick – Suntup Editions Numbered and Artist Editions
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – Suntup Editions Numbered and Artist Editions
  • More Books by Michael Crichton – requests are open, folks!
  • The End Of Eternity By Isaac Asimov (and pictures of a rare first edition)
  • The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and The War Of The Worlds, all By H.G. Wells – all Suntup Edition’s Limited Numbered
  • Killer Come Back To Me the unpublished Ray Bradbury book celebrating Bradbury’s 100th birthday by Hard Case Crime

There will be many books that pop up and wedge there way in between the ones above, but these are some of the fiction titles, young and old, to look forward to.

Branching off of both The Forgotten Fiction and my fledgling production company, press and PR agency Rune Works Productions Ltd. are the literary creations crafted by hand in my woodshop, like the TFF Rune Works Book Cases.

Call them traycases, slipcases, or whatever else you want, but do not call them mass produced haha.

These are beloved creations that I have hand crafted for my own library, art to hold my most precious art.

I am busy working on these RW Rare Book Cases:

  • A one-of-a-kind SILENCE OF THE LAMBS 2021 ARC case for the winner of the Unofficial Fans Of Suntup group’s contest, Kyle – this will be a 1 / 1 and like nothing anyone has ever seen
  • THE STAND Case With Licensed Bernie Wrightson Art – for UK and for US 1st printings
  • SECRET Case Project [hint: horror and Ania Ahlborn]
  • CARRIE 1st Edition case
  • FAHRENHEIT 451 case
  • The Gunslinger case
  • The Long Walk case
  • “The Bachman Books” case
  • “Gunslinger” Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction cases
  • A I of I creation customized for an issue of Astounding Fiction from 1953
  • Startling Mystery 1967 and 1969 Case
  • Fight Club cases, with a strip of cartoon film?
  • A Scanner Darkly case for the first edition of Philip K. Dick’s classic
  • Revival Us First Edition for signed copies
  • End Of Watch Us First Edition for signed copies
  • If It Bleeds Us First Edition for signed copies
  • The End Of Eternity Isaac Asimov case
  • And even a non-book case for a rare Star Wars Lego piece!

There are a couple of cases I want to remain a secret for now.

stephen king signature, traycase, Custom Book Case, custom slipcase, hand-made, Dolso, the stand, stephen king, bernie wrightson, trashcan man

These are some ambitious projects that I have undertaken and some will be ready to fly in the near future, while others may take a year or more to develop (some have already crossed into this realm).

These are handmade and planned and collaborated on with usually one person, me, or a very few others, at times.

That takes time.

But I love to make them and I love to see their purpose fulfilled as the books join with them, and much as time is one of our most precious commodities, up there with family and health, I take my time to ensure the quality I feel all of my work, from my written works to my web-made to my hand-made works all are the most they can be.

Be kind to one another, be safe, and go read!

 

Best,

 

~R.J.H.

The Golden Man by Philip K. Dick Explores Mutants Hunted

The Golden Man by Philip K. Dick Explores Mutants Hunted

“The Golden Man” by Philip K. Dick explores mutants hunted in a long short story, or short novella, from 1954, long before Stan Lee’s X-Men emerged!

It is set in a post-apocalyptic world where atomic radiation has produced mutated human beings.

A government task force has been created to hunt down these mutants.

SPOILER WARNING for “The Golden Man” an 11,600-word science fiction short story written by Philip K. Dick and published in the April 1954 issue of If magazine.

Mutants are either neutered or killed, depending on the strength of their abilities, so that they cannot harm humanity.

The Golden Man, philip k. dick, pkd, 1954 If magazine, science fiction, mutants, x-men, book review

But the one mutant still at large is the elusive Golden Man who is always a step ahead because of his ability to see the future.

PKD explored a future where the next step in evolution may very well leave humans behind.

He explored the idea of the next superior being as neither a benevolent leader-type, nor a malicious genocidal dictator-type, but rather a Magneto-like being that would set a course of natural selection that would replace humanity in favor of a new mutant race.

Evolution itself, after all, is a natural process with no malicious intent behind it. Human beings simply would not be able to compete.

The comparison between the X-Men nemesis, Magneto and his mindset, cannot be ignored here, though PKD preceded Magneto’s invention by close to a decade.

This practical perspective is rather interesting and refreshing.

Superheroes, essentially mutants, have dominated popular culture for quite some time. Heroes, like the Justice League of DC comics, have helped lead humanity where villains, like Magneto of X-Men, are more interested in leaving humanity behind.

“The Golden Man” alludes to a more plausible Darwinian approach that seems to encroach on Magneto’s thoughts and arguments, at times, but stands alone in its insightful approach to the mutants in the story.

This novella was the inspiration for the movie Next with Nicolas Cage.

Ironically, similar to that of iRobot, the studio borrowed just one small concept from the entire story in its adaptation.

Surprisingly, the only similar parallel these two works share is the elusiveness of both characters when avoiding arrest.

Hollywood certainly had a fun time showing off this skill with Cage during the casino chase.

Although Nicholas Cage has the similar ability to see into the future, he certainly does not have the Golden Man’s secondary traits and his philosophy that make him so extraordinary. If you are a fan of film adaptations (as I am) you may find this interesting.

 

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)


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“The Golden Man by Philip K. Dick Explores Mutants Hunted” was written by Peter Maisano.

 

 

One of Us: A Tribute to Frank Michaels Errington – A+ Horror

One of Us: A Tribute to Frank Michaels Errington – A+ Horror

One of Us: A Tribute to Frank Michaels Errington – A+ Horror fills a massive anthology featuring Stephen King, Richard Chizmar, Tom Deady, Josh Malerman, Paul Tremblay, and so many more.

This tome is 556 pages of knuckle splitting, page turning, scares.

And all the while, One of Us is moving in its tribute to Frank Michaels Errington, the gifted writer and reviewer that helped critique and nurture some of the best of a genre over the decades.

Proceeds from the book – that came out in November of 2020 – are donated in Frank’s name to the American Transplant Foundation.

A slew of photos and smiles in One of Us, edited by Kenneth W. Cain, share glimpses into the countless joy Frank gave to others while around them, and to honor his spirit, a slew of stories are presented within it in a fantastical nightmare-inducing fashion, just as he would have wanted.

Touching on a few of the stories therein, it is easy to enter into “I Am The Doorway” by Stephen King.

Previously published in Sai King’s first short story compilation Night Shift, the tale merges science-fiction and the macabre in a painfully realistic manner.

SPOILER WARNING For Stories By Stephen King, Richard Chizmar, and Tom Deady.

Why does realism come to mind?

Space seems to be a lifeless void and a quiet vacuum, but the reaches outside the earth’s atmosphere are the truest unknown.

The astronaut recalls little of his voyage to Venus that might note any apparent cause for his current murderous predicament.

But it is the only explanation.

Unlike so many sci-fi voyages and tales, Stephen King attaches the things beyond human understanding to the too oft black and white deception of science.

The returned astronaut has admitted to killing a boy, though it was ‘they’ who made him do it. He is ‘only the doorway.’

What could be more terrifying than intelligent entities, that manifest themselves like alien spores, a disease, or a parasite, in the form of eyes that continue to sprout from the searing, itching fingers of their space traveling host?

We cannot send life into space, but that does not mean that rabid rabies-like pathogens, or non-carbon-based life forms cannot live there, cannot hunt there for a way onto an earth . . . to feed.

The astronaut is their doorway to the earth, and as far-fetched as that terrifying premise may seem, its sheer plausibility is solidified in that we cannot for sure say that Eyes outside Venus’ atmosphere are an impossibility.

Truth be told, I would have loved to hear more about the astronaut in space in the story, the tale is very much grounded (literally and figuratively) but what King leaves to the imagination has me thinking about this one as I re-read it again and again, shivering and itching between my thumb and forefinger.

***

In what was one of the most disturbing stories in the volume, Tom Deady’s “A Tattoo For Joey” can be summed up in one chilling shout: “Grampa, you’re hurting me!”

The grandfather lives alone, has had one sever mental ‘incident’ – an instance of a breakdown of sorts – that seems likely to be a sign of dementia.

He loves his six-year-old grandson Joey, that is clear, and he is helping out his daughter, Monica, while she goes away to catch her husband cheating on her.

You feel for all three of the characters so very much in such a short span, especially for ‘Grampa’ as he struggles to do the near-impossible for any parent or grandparent: keep a young child entertained and safe while watching them for a prolonged period of hours or days.

The prize in the knock-off Cracker Jack box may really be a life-draining temporary tattoo (irony, there, as the tattoo seems hell-bent on staying vibrant and alive while the kid fades), or it may be a delusion of paranoia brought on by stress.

The heart is both warmed and throttled by this story.

And hearing the exasperated Joey say, “Grampa, you’re hurting me!” at the end really shakes the reader violently, as the grandfather ‘goes to work’ on the young boy’s tattooed arm.

I do wish the grandfather had gotten some time alone with the father, but that would like have made this great piece a bit implausible and spoil the bubble of the granddad-grandson world that is built so very well.

***

Some of the greatest short stories create magic in just three or four pages of prose, and that has to be one of the most difficult achievements in fiction, which Richard Chizmar gives us in “Homesick.”

The teenager point of view is frightening enough.

Timmy calls the old house ‘ugly’ and makes fun of the ancient paintings he has come to detest in his loneliness.

Maybe he is a little younger than a teenager; that is not specified, nor is it important (though I kind of wish I knew for sure).

My imagination runs to this being a bad combination.

Combine the lonesome juvenile boy in the White House being called a ‘baby’ by his father and the fact that he has abandoned all parenting time because of the new job, the presidency, and then combine the tragic sense of uprooting that Timmy feels for his hometown, his friends, his school and his ex-girlfriend – who had to find a new boy to go ‘steady with’ in Timmy’s absence – and you have a recipe for wickedness.

So many children are overlooked by their parents. The abuse is a cancer. Could it happen to one of the presidents’ own?

Well Timmy sees no other way to return home than to carefully mix the poison into his parent’s coffee, without getting any of the white powder on the mugs.

As the yelling starts, he is thinking of Sarah, his girl, his old house, and his friends, and he is eating popcorn.

It is such a brilliantly unnerving tale and reminds me a lot of Edgar Allan Poe, were he alive in 21st century America, because it feels all too close to the truth of human fallacy and weakness, and the hurt that the hurt can inflict on others.

***

These are just brief reviews of three of the great tales in this volume, but all of the pieces selected for this anthology are winners.

 

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)


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One of Us: A Tribute to Frank Michaels Errington, Stephen King, Richard Chizmar, Tom Deady, horror, Frank Michaels Errington

 

“One of Us: A Tribute to Frank Michaels Errington” was written by R.J. Huneke, and the book is a Paperback, 556 pages long, and was Published on November 14th, 2020 by Bloodshot Books.