‘Tenebrous Trinity,’ a Supernatural Horror Short Story

[This short story is inspired by The Three Mothers trilogy of horror films by Dario Argento, Inferno in particular.]

I

Mary kept reading the book with fascination. She had already read three pages, and she couldn’t take her eyes away from the text. 

She had come to this passage: “Thomas De Quincey surely had insight when he wrote of Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow, though he wasn’t entirely accurate about the identities of the three goddesses. To know of their true nature, it is helpful to compare and contrast them with the Christian Trinity.

“Just as there is a masculine Trinity in Christianity, so is there a feminine, tenebrous Trinity. There is God the Father, who said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there is the Mother-Goddess of Darkness. There is God the Son, who gave Christians the joy of hope in His resurrection, and whose suffering caused the tears of his mother, Mary; then there is the Daughter-Goddess of Tears. Finally, there is God the Holy Spirit, the ruach, or wind that went over the face of the waters at the beginning of the Creation; and there’s the Spirit-Goddess of Sighs, those sighs of sadness that blow through the leaves of the trees.

“Everything has its opposite: god and goddess, light and darkness; also, the goddesses take the four elements and pair them into opposites for their purposes—fire with water, and air with earth. Fire is passion, and water quenches and calms passion. Air is movement and restlessness, while earth is stasis and restfulness. These contraries, when pressed against each other, create greater power for the goddesses, and so they are fond of intermingling them.

“I, Verne Edgars, author of this book you are reading, built the three houses of the goddesses in our city of Hamilton; I built them in their honour. These buildings are their churches, where we commune with the goddesses in ritual and grow in blessedness with them. Just as the Christian Church teaches salvation by sharing in Christ’s suffering, so do the goddesses’ three churches help us achieve absolute blessedness through suffering. When we are spiritually ready, we may descend to the lower room and become one with the goddess of the house we are in, just as Jesus ate the Last Supper with his disciples in the Upper Room, where in eating his flesh and drinking his blood, they became one with Him.”

Descend to the lower room,’ Mary thought after raising her eyes from the book. In my search for my missing kid sister, Penny, I found this ‘House of the Daughter-Goddess of Tears’  a month ago. I didn’t find her here; perhaps she’s in one of the other two houses…or perhaps they’re hiding her here…in the ‘lower room’? The basement? No one ever goes in there, no one except the priestesses, who are the only ones allowed down there. The door is locked, though I managed to pick a priestess’s pocket and get one. I’ve been meaning to go down there, to see if that’s where Penny is, though I’m scared of what I may find. Do I dare?

She took out her phone and typed an email to her brother, Elliot. This is what her message said: “I’ve found the address of one of the three houses of the religious cult of the ‘Tenebrous Trinity’ that Penny ran off to join. I’m not sure if she’s in this house—probably not—or in one of the other two, whose addresses I don’t know. I’ll be looking around here some more; if I don’t contact you in the next one or two days, you can come here to find me. The address is 246 Kent St., here in Hamilton. The other two houses are in our city, too, though as I said, I don’t know their addresses yet. I hope to contact you soon with news of finding her. Love, Mary.”

She put her phone in her purse and took out a notebook from it. She opened it to the page with the latest poem she’d been working on. This is some of the best work I’ve ever done, she thought as she looked at her verses. Another reason I’m still in this house, despite not having found Penny, is that I find life here charming and inspiring. I really do believe these goddesses exist, and they have become my Muses…at least the Daughter-Goddess of Tears has been. No wonder Penny got caught up in this religious cult: they really do seem to have a way of achieving absolute blessedness. It surely feels that way when we do the rituals with the priestesses. Elliot would never accept the way of the goddesses; he’s too attached to the Catholic faith we were all raised on, with our old priest, Father Rosario, his father-figure, in St. Andrew’s Church. He’d never open his mind to our new faith. He wants me to find Penny to get her out of here; I want to find her to tell her I’ve seen the light here. He would never accept that.

She put her notebook in her purse and got up from her chair. She put the book back on the shelf where she’d gotten it, then walked out of the library. Nobody else was around; everyone, including the priestesses, had left the house for the day to run errands. She was left here all alone.

She walked down the hall, which glowed with spots of red, blue, and purple among the shadows, towards the door to the basement. She took the stolen key from her purse and fit it in the lock. She took a deep breath and opened the door. She swung it all the way open and looked down the stairs into the darkness. She gulped and took a few steps down.

She reached for a light switch; there was none. Though she was too scared to go down into the pitch-black, she felt a warm, vibrating feeling that encouraged her to explore. It was the same vibration she felt during the rituals, the same feeling that charmed her so, that inspired her poetry. The vibrations made her feel safe, protected. She continued down the stairs, feeling as if she could see what was down there. 

When she got to the foot of the stairs, the door slammed shut, startling her. Now, she didn’t even have that glowing blue light upstairs. She stood in absolute black. The warm vibrations soothed her fears somewhat, though, and she walked ahead, as if she knew her way.

She heard a faint sobbing.

“Penny?” she said. “Is that you?” She took a few steps forward.

The sobbing continued, a bit louder now.

“Penny? It’s me, your sister, Mary. Are you there?”

As she stepped forward in the blind darkness, walking as if she could see, the sobbing got louder. Then she felt a few drops of water on her shoulders and hair.

“What? Dripping from pipes above?” She stopped walking. The sobbing got louder, and the drops of water were now as numerous as rain. “It’s raining inside?

A puddle was growing around her feet. That water was rising fast into what felt like a pond. In a minute, it had gone up to her waist. It felt like being in a lake on a starless night in the woods.

“Oh, my God,” she said. “I gotta get out of here.”

She turned around and tried to go back to the stairs; of course she had no idea where they were, and the water was so thick to walk through that she could barely even move in it. It was now chest high on her. 

I’m gonna drown in here, she thought, shaking. 

Don’t be afraid, a voice whispered. You’re about to join the Goddess of Tears.

“W-wait…no!” she said in a trembling voice. The water was now up to her chin. “I’m n-not ready yet!”

Don’t be afraid, the voice said again. You are ready. All will be well. Trust the goddess. You suffer a little now, then you gain absolute blessedness.

Her head was now completely underwater. She held her breath for as long as she could. 

Remember the ritual, the voice whispered in her mind’s ear. Move your arms and legs. Swim in the goddess’s tears.

Mary did just that. She swam around freely, but couldn’t hold her breath much longer. She tried to swim up to the surface, but couldn’t find it. It seemed as though the entire basement was filled with water, right up to the ceiling!

Breathe in Her tears, Mary, the voice advised. Don’t be afraid. Have faith in Her grace. Breathe in Her tears, and be one with Her. You won’t die; you’ll have eternal life.

Mary breathed in, desperately trying to believe the voice. Instead of passing out and drowning, she found herself breathing the water like a fish! 

But another alarming thing happened: she felt her body beginning to…melt?

Indeed, her arms and legs were gone, at one with the water. She felt her torso and head melting now. Her heart, though fading fast, was pounding in terror. Her clothes floated away.

Her face melted off. Her breasts melted off. Her stomach, intestines, and heart were now gone. Her hair was one with the watery waves. Her brain was merging with her surroundings…

II

Elliot looked away from his notes when he saw the new message on his phone. It was from Mary. The title of the message said, “Penny.”

“Hey,” he said as he went to pick up his phone. “Has Mary found her?”

He read the message, disappointed at his kid sister not being found. Still, he’d make time to find the house. He put the phone down and resumed listening to the lecturer talking about the scene in Mozart’s Don Giovanni when the libertine is taken away to Hell by demons.

“Note that Don Giovanni is unrepentant to the end,” the professor said while a recording of the music was playing. “Only when the demons come to take him does he realize his mistake.”

Elliot felt a warm vibrating all over his body at that moment. He felt an urge, he couldn’t explain why, to look over to his left, where a beautiful young woman was sitting at a seat across the aisle from him, at the row of seats in front of his row. She was staring at him with hypnotic green eyes. Her lips were bright red, her hair a long, wavy blond, and her curvy figure was in a tight, black dress.

Is this my lucky day? he wondered. 

No sooner did class end than she walked over to him. 

“Hello,” he said with a smile. “How can I help you?”

“It’s I who can help you,” she said, with a serious face. “Your family is still searching for Penny, and you’ll be searching for Mary, too.”

His eyes and jaw opened all the way. “How did you know about that? Do you have Penny with you?”

“No,” the woman said. “But I can take you to where they are. My name is Sibyl.”

“Elliot,” he said, shaking her hand.

“I already knew your name. Come with me.”

They left the music school together. On the street and walking in the direction of the house of the Daughter-Goddess of Tears, they exchanged furtive glances at each other.

“How do you know so much about my family?” he asked.

“You won’t believe me, but I’ll tell you, then I’ll make you believe,” she said. “I have magical powers.”

“Oh, really?” he said with a chuckle. “Good luck convincing me of that.”

She put her hand on his forehead, and instead of seeing the street before him, he saw a dark area in a house…a hallway next to an opened basement door. What little light there was came in through the windows behind. The light was a dark, glowing blue. Penny was standing at the doorway. She looked as if she were in a trance. Someone in the dark seemed to be behind her.

“What the hell?” he said, his eyes and mouth agape again. “What is this place? Is it where we’re going?”

“No,” she said. “It’s the house of the Spirit-Goddess of Sighs. Just watch, and see what became of your sister Penny.”

He felt a chill go through his body as he saw Penny slowly descending the stairs into the basement. Glowing red and blue light among the shadows gave her face enough illumination for him to see a frown of fear, yet also determination, on her face. Walking behind her on the steps was, as Elliot could barely make out, some mysterious, older man.

When she reached the foot of the stairs, she heard a sighing voice. She jumped at the sound and froze where she was. Then she continued walking in the dark.

The door upstairs slammed shut, startling her again. All around her was pitch black, except for a slight, glowing blue coming from a wide-open window further off. Trembling, she began walking toward it.

More sighs.

Wailing, too.

After several slow, careful steps, she was standing by the window, a powerful wind blowing against her and making her long, wavy hair flutter about. The wailing, sighing sound was heard even louder now; she stood there, transfixed and mesmerized. 

Don’t be afraid, the loudly sighing wind told her. Let the goddess take you, and you’ll achieve absolute blessedness.

“I’m not afraid,” Penny said, trying hard to believe her words. Her eyes shut and her mouth curled up in a smile. “Take me!” Her heart was pounding.

The mysterious man was watching the whole thing from further back, still only barely visible to Elliot.

Now the winds were sucking at her, pulling her towards the window. Her heart was pounding even harder, she was shaking all over, but she held onto her faith in the goddess.

The wind pulled her out through the window. She screamed. Now Elliot saw his sister flying in the night sky.

“Oh, God, No!” Elliot shouted. People on the street were shocked at Elliot’s reaction to what only he and Sibyl saw. Sibyl just watched his horrified reaction in all stoicism, as if testing his attitude towards what he was seeing.

As Penny kept flying in the air, pulled in the wind as if caught in a cyclone, she felt her body evaporating. Her eyes and mouth were wide open in horror at the sight of her disappearing arms and legs, but she held onto her faith as best she could. 

Don’t be afraid, she thought. Have faith in the goddess!

Her hair vanished. Her clothes blew away without enough of a body to keep them on. Her breasts, belly, pubic hair, and buttocks became one with the wind. Then her face disappeared, along with her ears, her skin, and her bald scalp. Soon, her sighs were one with the goddess.

The vision ended. 

Elliot saw the street again. Some people were looking at him as if he were a madman.

“She…vanished into…thin air…literally,” he said in a tremulous voice. “Who was that man in the basement with her?”

“That would have been Verne Edgars, the architect who designed the three houses,” Sibyl said.

“We should find him,” he said. “Was he responsible for leading Penny to her death?”

“No, and she didn’t die,” Sibyl said. “She’s one with the goddesses.”

He grabbed her by the arms. “You have to help me get her back!” he shouted. “I lost my father when we were all kids, and my dear mother died a year ago. My sisters are all I have left of a family. You’ve gotta help me find Penny and Mary, and save them from this sick religious cult!”

Sibyl looked in Elliot’s eyes with a frown, thinking for a moment what to say to him. “To get your sisters back, you would have…to defeat the goddesses.”

“Yes!” he said. “I want them to pay for what they did to Penny, for what I fear they’ll do to Mary. You’ve got to help me! Those goddesses are demons! With God’s help and yours, we’ll destroy them.”

“I see,” she said, looking away from him for the moment. “To defeat the goddesses, you must…cultivate the power of fire, the energy of desire, then use it to burn down the houses. It’s the houses that hold the power of the goddesses; in destroying the houses, you’ll deprive the goddesses of their power, and your sisters will be freed from the goddesses’ spells on them.”

“How will I get this ‘power of fire,’ Sibyl?” he asked.

“Come with me to my apartment,” she said, taking him by the arm. “It’s very close.”

III

Verne Edgars, 61, was watching Elliot and Sibyl a half a block away from them, hiding among the pedestrians. 

I know what she wants to do with him, he thought as he followed them. I love the goddesses, but Elliot will never accept our way, and he’ll be enslaved, if not just plain killed, for rejecting it. I don’t want him to suffer. I have to figure out a way to stop him from going along with her.

Suddenly, he heard a sighing, and felt the wind blow against him.

“Wait,” he said, feeling the wind take more and more control of his body. “O Great Goddess, by Your grace, allow me to help E—“

Go home, Verne, the voice in the winds sighed in his mind’s ear. We will help you understand. Come with us.

A wind, which only he felt blowing against his body and through his hair, escorted him, as it were, back to the house of the Spirit-Goddess of Sighs. He tried to resist as best he could, pressing his feet against the ground to stop him from walking there, but his shoes kept moving, scraping against the pavement.

“Please, O Great Goddess,” he pleaded in a strained voice. “By your leave, allow me to warn Elliot. He’s a good man, just misguided. Penny, surely you don’t want your own brother to be–”

We will guide him, the sighing wind told him. Stop resisting. You know what will happen to you if you continue to resist, which is futile.

Finally, his scraping shoes took him back to the goddess’s house. In he went in all reluctance, and now his shoes were scraping on the wood of the hall leading to the basement. Vivid red glowed among the shadows.

Take out your key and unlock the door, the voice sighed in his ear. The wind forced him to put his hand in his coat pocket and take out the key. Put it in the lock.

“But, Great Goddess, I—“

His arm was sore from resisting putting the key in the lock. In it went, the lock clicked, and the door swung all the way open. He looked down the stairs into the all-enveloping black.

Down he went, his shoes scraping against the wooden stairs. He almost tripped a few times.

When he reached the foot of the stairs, he no longer felt wood or any hard surface under his shoes. He felt clumps of dirt there. The door slammed shut, startling him.

“What?” he said, feeling the dirt rising and covering his shoes.

You resisted the movement of the air, the wind sighed, therefore you will feel the stasis of the earth, holding you in position as you tried to hold yourself out there on the street.

“Wait, Goddess, I’m not ready,” he said in a hoarse voice as the dirt had now come up to his knees.

Yes, you are, the wind sighed. You have done the rituals. Remember what to do. Don’t be afraid, Verne. Don’t resist. All will be for the best in the end.

“But, Elliot—“ The dirt was up to his waist now.

He is no longer your concern. Be at one with us.

“Yes, Goddess,” he said as the dirt rose up to his chin. There is no denying the will of the goddesses, he thought, the dirt just under his lips now. I tried my best to help you, Elliot. You’re on your own now. Good luck.

He was completely buried under the earth now. His heart was pounding, more from his fear of angering the goddesses than from knowing he was going to be one with the earth. Would they deny him the absolute blessedness he’d been hoping for as punishment for going against their will? He hoped they’d forgive him as he continued holding his breath.

Finally, he could hold it no longer, and soil flooded his nostrils. He was breathing it like air, and his body was crumbling into tiny pieces that intermixed with the dirt. His consciousness was fading, as was his individual ego, which merged with the eternal spirit of the goddesses…

IV

In Sibyl’s apartment now, Elliot was led by her into her bedroom. They stood at the foot of her bed. She looked up at him.

“To gain the power of fire, we must arouse your passion to the greatest intensity,” she said, reaching back and unzipping her dress. “Therefore, I must indulge your lust.” She let her dress drop to her feet, and she kicked off her high heels. Wearing no bra or panties, she stood there completely naked before his delighted eyes. “Put me on the bed and make love to me.”

Am I having a lucky day, or what? he thought as his eyes poured over her flawless body: large breasts that hung naturally without sagging, creamy skin, hourglass curves, and even a full Brazilian wax. “You’re a bold one, Sibyl,” he panted. “You don’t even know me. Aren’t you afraid I might hurt you?”

“I’m a witch, remember?” she said, turning around so he could see her round, creamy buttocks, then turning again so he could see her full frontal again. “You couldn’t hurt me if you tried. Do you like my body? Only a witch’s magic can make her body this flawlessly beautiful.”

“It’s better than any I’ve ever had the pleasure to see,” he said. “How shall we do it?”

“Any way you like. The object is to get you as excited and passionate as possible, so do to my body whatever is most pleasing to you. My magic will protect me from any pain you could possibly cause me, so I’m not at all afraid.”

“I see.”

Still amazed, he hesitated in disbelief at his good luck…and in his doubt as to whether he could trust her.

“Well? Are you a man, or not? Take me, and enjoy yourself to the fullest.”

“If you insist.”

As he was having her, he felt himself glowing brighter and brighter with the fire of his passion. He was getting hotter, literally hotter, but not burning in any pain—nor was she; after all, it was she who was passing her power over to him for use against the goddesses. His eyes widened in amazement at the changes to his body.

As they were approaching climax, his body was all aflame. “Holy shit!” he gasped.

Finally, they came, the flames flickering all over him from head to toe subsided, and he cooled off. He lay beside her on the bed.

“I can’t believe what just happened,” he panted.

“You are a wicked lover,” she sighed with a lewd smirk. “Most women would be too timid to do the things I allowed you to do to my body. You’re lucky I had the power to endure it.”

“Forgive me my sinful passions,” he said, though glad he had the chance to indulge them. 

“No need to apologize,” she said. “As I said, you didn’t and couldn’t hurt me. Now you should have all the power of fire needed to defeat the goddesses.”

“I’m just curious: why are you helping me? Aren’t you one of them? Why should I trust you not to betray me in the end?”

“I’ve seen the evil the goddesses are capable of. They are demonesses. I saw them kill a Father Rosario just the other day, and—“

“Father Rosario?” Elliot shouted. “Father Robert Rosario, of St. Andrew’s Church on Fleet St.?”

“Yes, him,” she said with a sigh and a frown.

“He was my spiritual mentor as a kid. After my father died, Rosario was like a second father to me! And your goddesses killed him? Why?”

“For opposing them, of course.”

“How can I know for sure that they really killed him?”

“I’ll show you another vision. Brace yourself.” She touched his forehead.

V

Elliot saw Father Rosario, 65, standing on Fleet St. in front of the House of the Mother-Goddess of Darkness and, beside it, the dilapidated remains of what once had been St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, where Elliot’s mother took him and his sisters when they were kids…years before Penny went astray and followed the goddess cult. The church had been struck by lightning a week after the House of the Mother-Goddess of Darkness was finished construction and open for use by her priestesses, and a pervading sense of evil surrounding the area made the parishioners wish no longer to attend their church, so no attempt was ever made to repair the damages.

That pervading sense of evil was only a vague feeling, most of the parishioners not attributing it to the goddess’s house; but the priest was convinced that that house was Satanic in nature, and he blamed it for destroying his livelihood and place of service to God for so many decades. He was determined to confront that Satanic presence, and if he couldn’t rid the neighbourhood of it, he’d die trying.

He looked up at the damaged steeple of the church, where the lightning bolt struck the crucifix, shattering it and leaving the top of it with a jagged edge. The ugly new shape of it looked blasphemous to Rosario.

He looked over at the black house next to the church, and walked over to it. Standing on the front porch and facing the front door, he took a deep breath, gritted his teeth, held his hands in fists, and pushed the door open.

He walked down the hall, where spots of green, red, and blue glowed among the black shadows. He passed by the door to the basement; unlocked, it swung open for him.

“No, she-devils,” he hissed. “I won’t descend into your Hell.”

You have no love for the darkness, Father? a female voice asked him.

“Of course not,” he said. “I believe in the light.”

Very well, the voice said. Come upstairs to the roof, and we’ll discuss whatever is bothering you.

He went up four flights of stairs, which were shrouded in absolute black. No glowing colours here to illumine his way.

The wooden steps creaked. The only way he didn’t trip or bump into walls in the absolute darkness is that the power of the goddess guided his steps so well, it was as if he could see.

Rather than reassured with this guidance, he could only feel profoundly disturbed at being led the way by devils. After all, it wasn’t so much that he was being guided as he was being compelled to go up these stairs.

By the time he reached the roof, the ascent had caused his aging legs to be sore and tired. He bumped into a door leading outside to the roof.

Still no glowing colours accompanied the pitch black of the area in front of the door. He’d might as well have been blind standing there. He held the crucifix hanging from his neck tightly.

You abide by the light of the Lord, don’t you? the voice asked him tauntingly.

“Of course,” he said defiantly. “Jesus is the light of the world. Whoever follows Him will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Very well. Open the door, and have your light.

He opened the door, and the light was like a white fire–it shone in so brightly that it burned his eyes. He staggered forward and out onto the roof. He was slipping along the slope of the side of the roof. He opened his eyes, but saw only black.

“What? What the…I’m blind!”

He kept sliding down the side of the roof, then fell off the right side of the house, screaming.

If you want your Christ and your crucifix, you may have them, the voice said.

He landed, facing upwards, on the jagged edge of the steeple’s crucifix, impaled through his back, with the jagged edge coming out of his belly.

VI

“Father Rosario!” Elliot screamed as he saw his priest’s lifeless body, with copious amounts of blood pouring out of the wound. “I will avenge you.” Tears ran down his face.

He and Sibyl put their clothes on and left her apartment. He felt the fire inside him. In his rage, he even let himself flame up all over; he was so amazed to see the fire not burning his clothes off that he took no notice of the shock on the faces of the people who saw his fiery self on the streets.

He smiled at the sight of his new power. “I feel like a comic book superhero,” he said with pride. “So, am I a god now, like you?”

“Well, something like that,” she said as they walked down the street in the direction of the House of the Daughter-Goddess of Tears. 

They reached the house within ten minutes. They stopped by the front door.

She looked at him. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“Yes,” he said. “They took everything from me. I want to take everything from them.”

“Well then, follow me down into the basement. There is the best place to start the fire; burn the foundation, and the fire will rise up to the rest of the house.”

“OK.” They went inside and down the hall. He saw glowing spots of red, purple, blue, and orange among the shadows. He saw the door to the basement swing open, welcoming him. “I’m not afraid of you, bitch-goddesses! I have the power to destroy you. I’ll go down into your Hell, and make of it an even greater inferno.” He went down the stairs, lighting up his fire so he could see the way. He reached the foot of the stairs, noting the wet floor.

He stretched his arms out, using them like flamethrowers to hit the walls and wooden stairs with his fire. Everywhere he saw flames engulfing the basement. He smiled. 

Suddenly, he heard loud sobbing, hurting his ears. He shot more fire from his hands.

“Yes, go ahead and weep, goddesses,” he said. “You’re about to be destroyed!”

It started raining tears from the ceiling of the basement. Within ten seconds, he was up to his ankles in water. 

He fired his flames onto the watery floor, as much fire as he could muster in an attempt to vaporize it. It wasn’t enough, though. 

“Why isn’t this working, Sibyl?” he shouted, feeling himself becoming at one with the flames in his consuming rage. “Sibyl? Where are you?”

The water, now at waist level on him, displayed three female faces on its surface, the faces of Penny, Mary, and Sibyl. His eyes and mouth widened.

You wanted to find us, Elliot, his sisters said with grins, and you’ve found us.

“But you’re my sisters!” he shouted. “I came here to save you! And now, you’re trying to kill me?”

We don’t need saving, his sisters said. The goddesses saved us. They have given us absolute blessedness. You should embrace their power, too.

“Never! Sibyl, you bitch! I thought you said you wanted to stop the goddesses’ evil!”

I am one of the goddesses, you fool, she said from her face among the wavy surface of water, which was now at Elliot’s neck level. I’m the Daughter-Goddess of Tears, using your fire to increase my power. But why should you complain? Today was your lucky day. You got to have sex with a goddess.

He strained to increase the power of his fire, desperate to vaporize the water that was now at the level where his lips had been. The glowing fire pushed back the water to be separated from his body, which was now almost completely transformed into a pillar of fire, by about a foot all around. He was getting tired.

Give in, his sisters said. Let go of your passion. It only leads to suffering. Embrace sorrow and tears. When you accept pain as inevitable, you can join us and be blessed forever.

“No! Never!” he—a talking pillar of flame—shouted, and fired more flames out. “God is…my…salvation…”

He could sustain it for only a few more seconds, though. Finally, he shrank from exhaustion, and the water extinguished him.

Poor Elliot, his sisters said. He never could adapt to new beliefs.

It is no matter, the daughter-goddess said. We have his power now, and can benefit from it. His soul will serve us for all eternity. We’ll feel him near us always. After all, family should always be close.

Yes, Great Goddess, the sisters said, grinning. It was our plan to have Elliot serve us. The wisdom of the plan came clearer and clearer the more we became acquainted with your divine ways. His God won’t save him from the flames.

Analysis of ‘The Howling’

The Howling is a 1981 horror film directed by Joe Dante, based on the 1977 novel of the same name by Gary Brandner. The film stars Dee Wallace, Patrick Macnee, Christopher Stone, Dennis Dugan, and Robert Picardo.

The film received generally positive reviews, with praise for the makeup special effects by Rob Bottin. It won the 1980 Saturn Award for Best Horror Film while still in development, and it was one of three major werewolf films of 1981, the other two being An American Werewolf in London and Wolfen.

Seven sequels have been made to The Howling, the first film’s success having helped Dante’s career so he could make Gremlins in 1984. A remake of The Howling is in development, with Andy Muschietti set to direct.

Here is a link to quotes from the film, and here is a link to Brandner’s novel. Here is a link to the script.

The differences between the novel and the film are huge. In fact, the film only ever-so-vaguely follows the plot of the novel. I’ll point out just a few of the differences for now.

Karen While (Wallace) is Karyn Beatty in the novel, and her husband is Roy Beatty, his film equivalent being Bill Neill (Stone), for we learn that White has kept her maiden name. Karyn is raped at home in the novel, whereas Karen is almost attacked by a werewolf in an adult bookstore’s movie booth in the film. In the novel, her psychiatrist is only briefly mentioned; in the film, psychiatrist Dr. George Waggner (Macnee) is a major character, who has her recuperate in his health resort, called “The Colony,” while in the novel, she recuperates in a town called Drago, in California. The nymphomaniac werewolf is Marcia Lura in the novel; in the film, she’s Marsha Quist (played by Elisabeth Brooks), sister of werewolf/serial killer Eddie Quist (Picardo). The rapist of the novel is non-werewolf Max Quist.

It’s interesting to analyze the nature of the changes of the novel’s beginning to those of the film’s, that is, in psychoanalytic terms. It’s as if the screenplay to the film were written by Karyn Beatty instead of by John Sayles and Terrence H. Winkless, as if an attempt by her to reframe her trauma in a way that’s less invasive of her body, replacing a direct rape with a more symbolic, dream-like attack.

In the novel, as stated above, Max Quist, an ex-con resentful of being an unacknowledged worker and with no werewolf powers, comes into Karyn’s apartment while her husband’s away and rapes her, even biting her hard on the thigh. The Beattys have a dog, significantly named Lady, that tries to intervene on Karyn’s behalf, but is kicked away by Max. The dog goes with Karyn and Roy to Drago, and it is killed there. Violence against a dog named Lady seems like a further projection of Karyn’s trauma elsewhere.

So what we have in the novel is a straightforward act of brutal violence causing Karyn’s trauma. In the film, this violence is transformed in many ways, suggesting in its distortions a diluting of that pain.

First of all, Karen White is a TV news reporter risking her life by drawing out her stalker, Eddie Quist, so the police can catch him. Instead of Quist raping her, he has her meet him in a sleazy porn movie booth in an adult book store, where he makes her watch a video of a young woman being bound and raped. Thus the trauma of Karyn is projected onto the woman in the porn video.

Instead of getting a…lupine?…bite from Quist, Karen looks behind her and sees his terrifying transformation into a lycanthrope…though immediately afterwards, she is amnesiac about it, her repression of the memory protecting her from the pain.

This comparison between novel and film leads to a discussion of one of the film’s themes: the contrast between the true self and the false self. As Dr. Waggner says in a news interview with a TV host, “Repression is the father of neurosis, of self-hatred.” He speaks of the unfortunate reality of denying “the beast, the animal, within us,” of replacing the true self with the false self.

This replacement, in the film adaptation, of the novel’s rape scene with Karen watching a video of a rape, a man transforming into a werewolf, and her no longer being able to remember the traumatic experience, is an example of replacing the truth with a kind of fantasy, a falsehood that hurts less. Such replacements of painful truth with comforting falsehood are also seen in characters in the film replacing the true self with the false one.

Another interesting observation can be made of how the true experience of Karyn Beatty’s rape is expressed via the written word, whereas the trauma of Karen White is given in visuals, in images. These two presentations of the traumatizing incident correspond respectively with Lacan‘s notions of the Symbolic and the Imaginary, the trauma itself corresponding to the Real.

Trauma corresponds to the Real because the Real cannot be symbolized, or articulated with words. It is through psychotherapy, or the “talking cure,” that the horrors of the ineffable, undifferentiated world of the Real can be transformed into the Symbolic, the realm of language, of the differentiated. Such a talking cure is attempted with Karen in group therapy sessions in The Colony. This therapy is an attempt to peel away repression, bit by bit, to find the truth.

In the novel, it is significant that Karyn Beatty escapes the town of Drago, which is all engulfed in flames, defeating the werewolves that inhabit the town. In the version of the story given in the written word (the Symbolic), she survives–she’s ‘cured,’ metaphorically speaking. In the film, the version with images and an examination of the narcissistic false self (the Imaginary), Karen White becomes a werewolf and is (presumably) killed with a silver bullet shot from the rifle Chris Halloran (Dugan) has been using on the werewolves.

If you’ll indulge a brief digression, Dear Reader, it is through the Imaginary that one establishes a sense of self, an ego; this comes about during the mirror stage, when an infant first sees his reflection and realizes that that person over there, in the specular image, is himself. He’s alienated from it, though: it’s himself, yet it’s over there, as if a totally different person. That image is also a unified, coherent one, as opposed to the awkward, clumsy, fragmented being the child feels himself to be. Is that really me over there? Is the ego real, or is it illusory?

The ideal-I as seen in the mirror reflection is an ideal that one feels compelled throughout life to measure up to; an example of this attempt to measure up is seen in the scene in the public washroom, when an anchorman (played by Jim McKrell) is standing before the mirror practicing how he’ll enunciate his introduction of a news story with the most mellifluous, rounded tones he can muster. It’s a comical scene, especially when Bill Neill walks in and the anchorman switches to his normal Southern accent to speak with him.

The Imaginary is fundamentally narcissistic; Lacan called it “Fraud.” Indeed, it is the false self that hides the beast…and the buffoon.

This scene in the washroom ties in well with the fact that Karen also works as a TV news reporter. Those of us who observe the media carefully have known for decades that the news frequently disseminates false or at least misleading information, intended to serve the interests of the corporate elite and the military-industrial-media complex. Images of people like Karen on the TV (i.e., the stoic anchor persona) are thus thematically fitting for the purposes of this film.

On two occasions when in front of the camera, Karen fails to present this fake persona expected in the news media. On the first occasion, her trauma causes her to see images of her painful memories of that night with Quist instead of seeing the camera in front of her; this causes her to freeze on air, making her unable to announce the news. The second time, at the end of the movie, she turns into a werewolf for everyone to see on TV.

This theme of the media as representative of fakery is developed, however indirectly, through the film’s use of many nods to classic old werewolf films, a cartoon with a wolf, and actors known for having appeared in old horror/sci fi films. These actors include Kevin McCarthy (who appeared in Invasion of the Body Snatchers) as the TV news station manager, John Carradine, and Kenneth Tobey (who was in The Thing from Another World, later remade as The Thing). Even Roger Corman (who made The Little Shop of Horrors) does a cameo, waiting for Karen to finish using a pay phone at the beginning of the movie. Recall how the aliens in Snatchers and The Thing are fake imitations of people. Recall also how fake the special effects of those old horror movies were, as compared to the effects in The Howling.

When Karen and Bill (or Karyn and Roy) go out to The Colony (or the town of Drago) for her to recuperate, she is disturbed at night to hear howling coming from the woods surrounding their cabin. She goes over to the bedroom window, looks out into the trees, and listens for the howling. This howling represents a projection of her trauma, her howling in pain, as it were, out into the woods. The notion of werewolves out there, as she eventually finds out is the source of the howling, is a transformation of the rape trauma, in her unconscious mind, into something unrecognizable as symbolic of a rape memory, since what is repressed returns to the conscious mind and hides in plain sight, unrecognized by us in our waking hours. The howling also represents the honest expression of feelings, the true self.

The film makes a strong link between werewolves and sexuality (I also did this in my novel, Wolfgang), as already indicated above. This howling in the woods reminds us of Freud‘s rather far-fetched interpretation of the dream of the “Wolf Man,” in which Freud’s patient saw six or seven wolves on tree branches outside the window of his home. Freud interpreted this dream as representing Sergei Pankejeff‘s witnessing, as a child, the primal scene–that is, his parents making love in ‘doggy-style.’ (I’m not endorsing Freud’s wild speculations here: I’m just using the fame of this interpretation to reinforce the link between wolves–and therefore werewolves–and sexuality.)

Another such link in the film is seen in Marsha Quist, a known nymphomaniac in The Colony who seduces Bill, the two of them turning into werewolves as they have sex in the woods. In the novel, Karyn immediately feels jealousy on meeting Marcia Luna, angered at the attractive woman’s constant attention to her husband. As in the film, Roy has a sexual relationship with Marcia, a werewolf like all of Drago’s residents.

Bill’s becoming a werewolf coincides with two other changes in his personality: first, going from being a faithful husband (initially resisting Marsha’s sexual advances) to cheating on Karen; second, going from being a vegetarian to eating meat. Again, the false self hides the true self through repression of unacceptable behaviour.

In the film, a character not in the novel, Terry Fisher (played by Belinda Balaski), also works at the TV station and is Chris’s girlfriend. She continues to investigate Eddie Quist, going into his home with Chris and discovering his aptitude at art. The killer has drawn many werewolf portraits and has posters of old werewolf movie ads on his walls. Terry quips that Eddie “could’ve designed the Marquis de Sade colouring book,” another link between werewolves and sexuality.

Terry later explores The Colony, finds Quist’s body missing in the morgue, learns from a bookseller (played by Dick Miller) that regular bullets don’t kill werewolves, and that Quist’s drawing of a lake is one in The Colony area. She’s found his other drawings there, too. Quist is alive!

Now, how does one become a werewolf? By being clawed, scratched, or bitten by another. This is what happens to Bill when walking through the woods back home after he resists Marsha’s initial sexual advances. Since the film links werewolves with sexuality–rape and, as we can see here, unwanted sexual advances in particular–the scratching or biting of someone by a werewolf, making him or her into a new werewolf, is thus symbolic of passing the sexual trauma onto a new victim.

The werewolf’s claws and teeth are phallic symbols, cutting yonic wounds into its victims, making the werewolf’s attack a symbolic rape. This symbolism is how I can see the film’s beginning trauma of Karen seeing Eddie Quist’s transformation in the porn movie booth, juxtaposed with her watching that porn rape scene, as a transformation of Karyn’s actual rape, with the wolf-like bite on her thigh, in the novel.

When Terry puts all the pieces together about The Colony, and is about to reveal its secrets, she is attacked by TC Quist (played by Don McLeod), the werewolf brother of Eddie and Marsha. Terry manages during the struggle to find an ax and hacks off the werewolf’s hairy, clawed hand, which she sees transform back into a human hand. Since the clawing of a victim, with phallic claws, is a symbolic rape, then the cutting off of a werewolf’s hand is a symbolic castration.

Later, she is killed by werewolf Eddie in Waggner’s office after phoning Chris and telling him about the werewolf secret in The Colony; when she’s being killed, the phone call being interrupted by Eddie means it hasn’t been hung up, so Chris listens in horror at his girlfriend’s screaming and death. (Later, Chris arrives in the office and confronts Eddie, who tells him Terry has “a sexy voice,” once again linking werewolves with predatory sexuality in The Howling.)

Karen goes over to Waggner’s office and finds Terry’s bloody body there, then she confronts resurrected Eddie, who transforms in front of her. She’s paralyzed with fear.

Eddie’s transformation into a werewolf is the highlight of the film, being an impressive example of pre-CGI special effects (though the transformation scene in An American Werewolf in London is even better). Eddie is proud of his powers, pleased to demonstrate them to terrified Karen. He’s displaying his bestial true self, as opposed to his human false self.

One of the insights Terry and Chris get from the bookseller is that the movies’ notion of werewolves needing a full moon to transform is “Hollywood baloney” (reinforcing what I said above about this film’s theme about the media and falsehoods); actually, as shapeshifters, lycanthropes can transform anytime at will, as we see Eddie doing here.

Karen scalds Eddie’s face with acid and runs outside, but she is caught by the other residents of The Colony. Waggner appears among them, revealing his sympathy for them, but also pleading with them about the necessity of fitting in with society for the sake of keeping their secret safe.

The other werewolves have lost patience with the psychiatrist’s recommendation that they all hide their lupine true selves behind a human false self; Marsha in particular is adamantly opposed to this hiding, having earlier rebuked the doctor for giving her brother TC a copy of his book, The Gift, which rationalizes man’s bestial nature as a source of creativity. (Recall in this connection Eddie’s artistic aptitudes.)

Chris arrives with a rifle loaded with silver bullets he got from the bookstore, and after killing Eddie with it, he shoots and kills a few of the werewolves holding Karen (Waggner, too, gets shot, and–having just been scratched by a werewolf–he’s grateful no longer to have to continue the burden of treating the untreatable, or to have to be a werewolf himself), and Chris runs off with Karen to his car to get away, having also burned down a building filled with werewolves.

Even Sam Newfield, the sheriff of The Colony area (played by Slim Pickens), is a werewolf, and as Karen and Chris are getting away, they have to put a silver bullet or two in him, too. The sheriff, with his rifle, has shot up Chris’s car, including blowing a tire, and a few more werewolves are attacking, so he and Karen have to switch to Sam’s police car to get away.

Werewolf Bill, however, is one of their attackers, and he bites Karen from the back seat of the car, so she will be a werewolf, too. She knows she must warn the world, using her position as a newswoman to disseminate the message to as many people as possible. This means, contrary to the normal media practice of presenting a false self that is pleasing to one’s viewers (i.e., that image of stoic reporting that her male colleague was practicing before the mirror in the public bathroom), she must show her true self as a new werewolf…on live TV.

Chris, heartbroken, must now put a silver bullet in her.

The film ends in a bar where its patrons, having watched the news broadcast on the wall-mounted TV screen, debate whether what they’ve seen was real or the gimmickry of special effects–another manifestation of the film’s exploration of the theme of truth vs. fakery in the media.

Marsha’s managed to survive the fire in The Colony, and she’s in the bar, where a man hoping to get lucky with her has treated her to a hamburger cooked rare. She’s enticing him with her nymphomaniac false self, while waiting to reveal her true self to him in his bedroom.

While the credits roll, we see her burger cooking. It’s interesting to watch the slow transformation of the pink meat into a hamburger; this parallels the slow transformation of Eddie into a werewolf…or the slow process of psychotherapy revealing, bit by bit, repressed trauma. On top of all this, there’s the symbolism of the rising heat of sexual passion, and meat…flesh…to be eaten: more of the merging of the carnivore with the sexual predator.

‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part Six, Chapter 4

Megan and her father, John, as well as Lynne and Herman, stood in a straight line, holding hands, before their own lake of blood. The only one of them not trembling at the thought of feeling the suffering of the other three was John.

You’re not afraid now, Mr. Fourier, Furioso said to him, but you will be…soon.

I only feel hate and anger, John said. Anger towards this unfilial daughter of mine, and hate towards the whole miserable world. I’ll be glad to end my existence. If this is the only way to do that, then so be it.

To end your existence, and to end the pain that you think your hate and anger are shielding you from, you’ll have to let go of those two emotions, Furioso said. When you let that pain hit you, be prepared for a shock. But stay with it, for only staying with it to the end will get you out of Hell.

Very well, John growled. Let’s just do this.

In you all must go, Furioso said.

Megan, Lynne, and Herman shook as they all took deep breaths. John just snarled as he got ready to jump in.

The four ghosts went in with a splash of red spots flying in all directions. They sank deep below the surface, seeing at first only a void of infinite black.

Then the visions of their rapes appeared.

As with the other groups of ghosts, each of the four of them experienced the suffering of each other, not of their own. They felt the phallic invasions of those that they themselves had invaded in their physical lives.

Megan felt a strap-on dildo suddenly jammed into her ass while lying on top of Lynne, who felt Herman vaginally invading her…but not in their bedroom at home. Lynne experienced it in Megan’s body in the changing area of the shower room in the high school gym.

Herman experienced a phallic penetration again, but as with Lynne, it was in the gym changing room. And he felt it in Megan’s body. He saw himself on top of him-as-her.

Oh, no, Lynne and Herman moaned together. Not again! Our crime, back to haunt us!

So, this is what I made them feel, Megan thought as she felt that dildo going in and out of herself. My saner self wouldn’t have wished this on my own worst enemies. Yet my not-so-sane self did wish it on them! Hate and lust for revenge really do take away one’s sanity. I want to heal from the trauma of my rapes, not go through them again!

As Herman felt his own phallus jamming in and out of him, tearing away at Megan’s vagina, he also felt a surprising emotion from Megan’s experience: he felt her crush on him, and her betrayed love.

Oh, my God! he thought as he saw her victimization through her eyes. Megan used to like me? She fancied me? And I did this to her. I let Lynne talk me into doing such a horrible thing to her? Lynne and I should both be ashamed of ourselves, far more than the guilt we’d felt years ago.

I thought I’d paid my dues, Lynne thought as she continued experiencing Megan’s rape with all of her senses. Going to church, being a ‘good Catholic,’ being monogamous with the rapist I’d goaded him into becoming, giving therapy to rape victims, going to confession and telling the priest what I’d conspired to do with Herman…none of that comes close to redeeming myself. No belief in Jesus could ever undo what I did to Megan. Why did I have to be so cruel to that poor girl, she who’d hardly done anything to me? I so deserve this, as awful as it is to have to experience. I’m so sorry, Megan.

I’m sorry, too, Megan, Herman moaned. I repaid your crush on me by being such an animal. I should have gone to jail for what I did to you.

We deserved to experience your revenge, Megan, Lynne said.

No, you didn’t! Megan said. I should have known from my own pain that no one, ever, should be subjected to rape.

The agony of these three, however, was an orgy of delight compared to what John was going through…he who, perhaps, should have been subjected to it.

John found himself in the body of a little girl–twelve-year-old Megan’s. That delicate body being used for the perverted pleasure of…himself.

He could no longer shield himself from her thoughts: Oh, Daddy! You’re hurting me! Why are you doing this to me?

He looked up at himself through her eyes, that sweating and grunting man with the hateful snarl on his face. He saw himself with the eyes of his betrayed daughter. He saw what a foul pig he really was.

He realized that all those bad boys he’d warned Megan about, those boys he’d accused her of yielding her body to…they were all actually projections of himself.

He remembered his constant, unchanging attitude every time he’d done this to his daughter, as well as to all those prostitutes he’d been so rough with at that brothel: They’re all just a bunch of sluts, tempting me to sin. They deserve no kindness for making me sin. The only good in them is the pleasure they give me.

He now felt the worthlessness he’d imposed on his daughter.

The pain he felt between his legs–experiencing it in Megan’s then-small body–the pain of his phallic stabbing, was a minor irritation compared to the torment of looking up at and seeing his ugly face. Now, John was a physically handsome man; but the scowl of hate and contempt on his face as he continued raping her, devoid of pity or remorse, cancelled out his good looks to the point of reversing them to the other extreme, making him as hideous as a Gorgon…yet looking in that face would never give him the mercy of turning him to stone.

If John closed his eyes, he still saw himself.

Now he knew who he really hated.

God, stop this! he screamed inside himself. I can’t bear to see myself this way! I’m a beast! I’m a devil! I’m a monster! I don’t deserve to exist! I don’t want to exist!

But he kept existing in that lake of blood.

He tried to push the pain away, to project it onto Megan, then to Lynne, then to Herman; but it always came back to him. The pain was a ball of fire that flew in a circle among all four of them…and this is when they all realized that their ‘ghost-bodies,’ as it were, had begun merging into one, single, deformed monster of a body. Megan was reminded of the fused body at the end of the Tool video for “Schism.” This body was shaped like a circle-jerk of a donut, with a phallus shoving into each ghost positioned before that phallus.

A donut-monster fucking itself.

All four ghosts were trying to pass the pain on, that fireball, to each other, passing it on in the form of rapes, but it always came back. As their four identities continued fusing, transforming from a ‘donut’ into one giant floating blob in all that blood, they began to see the futility of trying to pass the pain away, to project it. They realized, more and more, that they had to confront it.

Even John did.

I’m sorry, baby, he moaned to Megan. Though saying ‘sorry’ is useless. I was never a real father to you. I should never have even been born. I deserve this punishment…forever.

The fireball stopped flying around in circles. It stopped in the centre of their now fully unified identity, that grotesque ball of pain. The fire settled there, then it grew from the centre slowly, coming closer and closer to the periphery. All four ghosts, as one big ghost now, felt the painful experiences of all four of their lives simultaneously.

Besides experiencing each other’s rapes, they all felt such memories as Megan’s getting green paint all over her blouse, and hearing all the laughter from her classmates. They felt Lynne’s and Herman’s annoyance at getting in trouble with the high school principal for that prank; they also realized that Megan hadn’t wanted to involve the teachers or principal, meaning that getting revenge on her in the changing room was all the more indefensible. They felt John’s annoyance at his wife’s leaving him for another man…and they all knew of John’s shameful visits to that brothel, and how they justified his wife’s leaving him.

Shame, shame, and more shame.

A huge, deafening scream came from that blob as the fire reached its periphery and began boiling the surrounding blood. The scream died out, the blob melted into, and merged with, the boiling blood, and the bloody lake evaporated into a hot, pink mist, which in turn faded into nothingness.

A nothingness of peace.

***********

Furioso wasn’t there to watch it, though. He–as a demon who had lured so many thousands over the centuries to Hell, yet also had recently developed the compassion to show how some of the damned could escape it, was now standing before his own sea of blood.

He saw that red sea shrink a little, as it had shrunk a little on several occasions before.

A slight smile appeared on his lips.

THE END

‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part Six, Chapter 3

Next, it was Tiffany’s turn, along with the ghosts of her mother Alice, Faye and her baby, George, and his mother. As with the previous group of spirits, Furioso led them all to a large lake of blood, the blood of their bodies mixed together.

Again, as with the last group, the ghosts of Tiffany and her victims/victimizers all stood in a straight line before the red lake, holding hands and feeling a heavy dread for what was to come.

In you must go, Furioso said, if you truly wish to end your pain. Just remember that the pain you feel submerged in that lake will feel much more acute. Still, as torturous as it will feel, it won’t last forever, as this pain outside will. When you go in, stay with it, be patient and endure it all the way, as extreme as the pain will feel, and it will come to an end. Keep faith in the ultimate outcome.

All the ghosts looked at the lake with fearful eyes. They took deep breaths, then jumped in together.

Whether their eyes were opened or closed under the surface of the red, they all saw visions of the past; but they experienced the pasts of their victims, as their victims had experienced those painful moments. The experiences were also synchronized, so the victimizers could glean the meaning of what they’d done, by seeing and feeling it done to themselves.

Faye and Alice, for example, were in Tiffany’s position when Faye’s fist came smashing down on Tiffany’s calculator in math class; this vision coincided with experiencing the block of ice dropped on Tiffany’s head in that neighbourhood on the way home from school. As this happened, Tiffany, in her mother’s place, felt the sledgehammer cracking her skull open in the same neighbourhood the same night Tiffany’s ghost killed her mom.

Experiencing the mutual suffering caused all of the ghosts to shudder. I should never have done those things to Tiffany, thought Faye. No wonder she wanted revenge.

My poor daughter went through so much, Alice thought. And I never supported her the way she needed her mother to. True, it was hard for me raising her without Barry, and the heartache of his leaving me had made it impossible to forget every time I look in Tiffany’s eyes–her father’s eyes–still, that gave me no right to take it all out on my baby. In many ways, I got what I deserved. Forgive me, baby.

No, mama! Tiffany’s ghost moaned back to Alice. You may have hurt me and neglected me a lot, but you never smashed anything–ice or a sledgehammer–on my head. The punishment I gave you far outweighed the crime. You did not deserve that, mama! I’m so sorry.

Speaking of cracked skulls, Tiffany next experienced Faye’s newborn baby being thrown to the wooden floor. The baby itself expressed its pain to Tiffany’s ghost in the only way it could, non-verbally, by projecting the feeling onto her.

Oh, my God! Tiffany’s ghost thought. That baby never did me or anybody any harm. How could I have done something so cruel to a defenseless child? I was so drunk on my hatred at the time, laughing at their suffering, that I didn’t see how despicable I was being!

Punish me, Tiffany! Faye moaned. Why punish my baby?

And I laughed as I watched you and your baby die, Tiffany’s ghost thought. I’m so sorry!

Next, the ghost of Tiffany saw the hallucination she’d made Faye see of her baby, with the elephant’s ears, tusks, and trunk. She felt Faye’s shock, as well as the trunk hitting her on the nose, hard enough that it hurt.

My God! Tiffany thought. That was so mean.

She saw the horrified reaction of Brad, Faye’s husband, when the baby was thrown to the floor.

That poor man was made to suffer, too, Tiffany thought in her swelling remorse. He never did anything to me. He didn’t deserve to see his baby die. I made her innocent baby look like a monster, when it is I who am the monster.

The ghosts of George and his mother saw what he had done to Tiffany back in high school: how mean he was to her when he called her “a wimp,” how he hit her on the shoulder with a triple-A battery shot from an elastic band, though aiming at her face as Boyd had done to Alexa, and how he and Faye dropped that chunk of ice on Tiffany’s head.

George! his mother moaned at him. Did I raise you to do things like that? Small wonder she wanted revenge.

I’m sorry, Mom, he moaned back at her.

Apologize to Tiffany, not to me, she said.

Apologize? he said. After what she did to you? My bullying of her wasn’t anywhere near as bad as what she made me do to you.

Dropping a block of ice on her head and leaving her unconscious on the sidewalk was not a minor thing, she said.

It wasn’t major enough to deserve your murder or my suicide in the hospital, he said.

And at that moment, Tiffany was made to experience that moment in the hospital room: him getting the syringe out while feeling his love for his mother, as well as his horror at being forced to make that air bubble in the tube leading into her body; her feeling the terror at helplessly watching her son’s inexplicable murder of her.

His mother never hurt me, Tiffany thought as she saw the air bubble come closer and closer. She never earned my hate. Still, I was so high on that hate that I never contemplated how low I’d let myself sink.

Each ghost was trying to separate itself from experiencing the suffering it had caused the other ghosts, but couldn’t. Each ghost tried to swim away from the others in that lake of blood, but the mixed blood ensured their inescapable togetherness. Swimming away led immediately to being pulled back to the others.

Their identities were merging, as were their pain, shame, and remorse. The ghosts’ moans were crescendoing into screams. They all begged for the pain to end, yet they were each also fearful of losing their individuality.

Eventually, they came to realize that each ghost clinging to its own ego was perpetuating its suffering, and they all came to understand the need to let go.

Though each ghost hated the other ghosts for having caused their suffering, each hated itself even more for having caused so much greater, and needless, suffering. Even George came to accept that it had been his and Faye’s bullying that started the chain of events that led to his mother’s death and his suicide.

Forgive me, Tiffany, he moaned.

Forgive me, George, she answered.

The ghosts all felt themselves melting and merging into the blood, and the red lake evaporated into a hot, pink mist. The mist slowly faded and disappeared.

No more existence.

No more pain.

‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part Six, Chapter 2

Furioso started with the ghosts of Alexa, her parents, Arlene and Jonas Frey, Boyd McAulliffe, his daughter, Tess, his wife, Sharon, Denise Charlton, her husband, Jack Drew, and their son, Jameson.

Come with me, he said to all of them. He flew off, and the group of ghosts all flew off after him.

They reached an area of Hell at the centre of which was a huge, round, red lake. The water looked like blood.

In you all must go, together, Furioso told them. Prepare for the greatest agony you’ve ever felt. Yet remember, this agony will end. Stay with it. Be patient, and endure.

The ghosts shared a collective dread for what they were about to experience. They all held hands in a straight line as they stood before the bloody lake, then they all jumped in together.

After being fully submerged in the red–which really was blood, the blood from all of their bodies from their physical lives, mixed together–the ghosts opened their eyes and saw visions of their pasts, with the sound included, as well as all their other senses. Only one didn’t experience one’s own past…one experienced the past of one’s victims. These moments would fade in and out with the slow movements of the bloody waves.

Boyd’s ghost found himself in that old science classroom during lunch break…only he didn’t see himself aiming a bottle-cap in a slingshot to hit Alexa in the face. Instead, he saw himself in her shoes playing chess, then feeling that bottle-cap hit her just under her left eye.

Just as he was experiencing this sharp irritation, Alexa’s ghost found herself in the bushes, hiding from Tess’s dad. She was Tess this time, and she felt the bullet from his gun hit her, just under her left eye.

They both felt the impact of the projectile hit them at the exact same time, and they both keenly felt the pain they’d caused each other.

In their visions, they both shouted out, “Jesus Christ!” in unison, at the exact same time.

Next, Alexa saw herself in Sharon’s position, walking up to her husband, Boyd, asking where Tess was. Then she felt that other bullet hit her in the face again, just under the left eye.

As Alexa’s ghost experienced that kill she’d goaded Boyd into making, Boyd felt the bottle-cap hit him in the face, in the exact same place again, at the exact same time. He also remembered his shooting of Tess and Sharon, how they were hit in the face at the exact same spot.

He put it all together when he saw a vision of Denise kicking Alexa in that classroom, only he was in Alexa’s body feeling the kicks. He remembered how Alexa and the other two bullied girls, whose names he’d forgotten, all went missing shortly after this bullying incident, all three presumed suicides.

He then saw a vision of being pushed into a mud and slush puddle just outside of their high school, again, him in Alexa’s body; then hearing everyone laugh at him, and feeling kicks in the gut from himself and Denise.

This was all my fault, Boyd thought. If I hadn’t pushed Alexa so hard, she wouldn’t have killed herself, gone to Hell, then made me kill my wife and daughter. We’d all still be alive. Oh, God, I’m so sorry. It was all my fault!

Alexa’s ghost not only watched and felt what had happened to Tess and Sharon, she felt Boyd’s reaction. It hit her hard to realize she’d hurt two people who had nothing to do with her score to settle with Boyd.

My God, Alexa thought. I was so filled with rage at Boyd that I didn’t think of how his daughter and his wife never did me any wrong. How old was that girl…ten? And I made him shoot her in the face with that bullet, and the same thing to his equally innocent wife. He hit me in the face with a bottle-cap, and I thought making him kill his own family, with bullets in the face, was a fitting way to get revenge? That was wrong, way wrong…

Boyd kept ruminating over what he’d done as he felt the presence of the ghosts of his wife and daughter. He felt their pain and they contemplated how his bullying of Alexa, a needless, petty bullying based on envy, led to her suicide and her brutal revenge on everyone he cared about. The whole family just felt the pain and shame shift back and forth among them like the moving waves of that lake of blood.

Alexa’s own pain, guilt, and shame joined theirs. The four of them felt their consciousnesses merge, making the experience of each other’s pain more and more intense and unendurable; yet they had to endure it all to get out of the endless pain of Hell. As they felt each other’s pain grow and grow, each felt his or her shame grow in the same proportion.

Now, as if this pain somehow wasn’t enough, the pain of the ghosts of Alexa’s parents, Arlene and Jonas, was now being added to embitter the pot even more. Alexa’s ghost saw the bedroom of her parents, transformed into that ovoid shape without windows, doors, or furniture. She saw Jonas, lying unconscious on the floor with blood pouring out of his head.

But she saw everything through her mother’s eyes instead of her own. She also felt her mother’s hunger. She saw the large carving knife and fork by Arlene’s feet on the floor; she picked them up.

Oh, no, Alexa thought. I’m about to taste my father’s flesh.

She looked down at Arlene’s stomach and saw it open into an empty black hole. She went over to her father’s body with overwhelming dread.

As she was experiencing this, Arlene’s and Jonas’s ghosts were in Alexa’s place, feeling the pain she’d felt from their lack of love or compassion for what their daughter had been through.

My God, Arlene thought. I really was a bad mother.

Me, too, Jonas thought. Arlene and I were so caught up in our own personal frustrations that we never took a moment to consider what she’d been going through. She was being bullied, and we blamed it all on her. We didn’t give her the emotional support she so desperately needed. No wonder she went crazy and killed us.

Alexa was tasting the bloody flesh on her father’s arm. She wanted to vomit, but she couldn’t. This was far too extreme a punishment to give Mom and Dad. What’s wrong with me?

Denise saw herself in Alexa’s body in that classroom, looking up at Denise kicking her. She saw herself getting pushed into the mud and slush outside of their high school. She felt Alexa’s humiliation. She felt the kicks to her gut.

As she was experiencing Alexa’s pain, Alexa’s ghost was in Denise’s home with the baseball bat, approaching Jameson. She brought the bat down on the boy’s head. The cracking of it on his skull coincided exactly with one of Denise’s kicks to Alexa’s gut. Both of them experienced each other’s pain, and Denise understood how the one caused the other. Alexa realized that her revenge was far worse than what had caused it.

Revenge made me into a monster, Alexa thought. That boy didn’t deserve that. Nor did Jack.

I did a lot of bad things in my life, Denise thought. Maybe Jack and Jameson didn’t deserve what happened to them, but I deserved it.

Mommy? Jameson’s ghost called out to Denise. Why did you kick that girl? Why did you make her hate you enough for her to make you kill Daddy and me?

His words caused a pounding pain inside Denise.

Alexa, in Jack’s body, just then felt the knife plunged into his gut.

What my wife did to you was bad, Alexa, Jack’s ghost said to her, but why did you have to punish Jameson and me as well as her?

These words cut into Alexa.

I’m so sorry, she said to him.

The consciousnesses of all of the ghosts–Alexa, Boyd, Tess, Sharon, Denise, Jack, Jameson, Arlene, and Jonas–were all merging into a huge mass of life experiences, memories, pain, hate, and remorse. They were truly suffering together, feeling compassion. Yet the pain only grew more and more torturous.

Boyd, for example, contemplated Alexa’s suffering from her parents’ emotional neglect for the first time. He’d never imagined how her own mother and father could have had such a callous attitude to the pain of the daughter they were supposed to love.

He’d only ever thought of his wounded pride, his envy of her getting into the Grade 8 gifted class, when he hadn’t been accepted into it. He now realized that we all too rarely consider the suffering of others; we’re usually focused just on our own.

Daddy, Tess’s voice called out to Boyd. Why were you so mean to that girl when you were a kid? What did she ever do to you to deserve that?

Hearing these questions stung in her father’s mind. He remembered Alexa, back in that science classroom, asking him, “What did I do to you to deserve that?” (the bottle-cap in the face) He remembered his answer to her: “You kept living.” Yet, when she was no longer living, she ended up being so much worse to him and his family. Her continued living, without his bullying and with more loving parents, would have spared his family’s lives.

All of the ghosts were feeling this kind of regret as they contemplated each other’s memories, a result of the continued merging of their nine consciousnesses. Individuality was fading. A collective moaning, wailing, and screaming in pain grew in loudness. Feeling each other’s traumas, more and more vividly with the merging, as if the traumas had been their own, was getting unbearable. Still, they knew this was the only way out of Hell.

Soon, there were no longer nine ghosts, but just that mass, that red blob of wailing pain. Then the redness dulled from its original fiery glow, dimming to a dull grey-red as the wailing did a slow decrescendo.

Finally, the grey blob started to fade away as the moans became barely audible, to not at all audible. The blob vanished.

Silence.

Non-existence.

Peace.

‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part Six, Chapter 1

Back in Hell, Alexa, Megan, and Tiffany had all achieved their revenge on everyone who had hurt them badly enough to deserve getting the grief that they had all given.

The three girl-ghosts hit their enemies far harder than they had been hit themselves. They were beyond satisfied in that regard.

Yet, their own pain hadn’t subsided.

It had only grown worse…much worse.

The melting and decay of their ghostly apparitions was now at such an advanced stage that the three no longer had humanoid forms. There wasn’t even a distinction between any of the three of them anymore.

They were hill-like blobs of melted flesh that oozed into and mixed with each other.

The ghosts of all their victims–still with human apparitions–were there, too, facing them with expressions that were a mixture of hatred, gloating (over the three girls’ ugliness), and revulsion.

Furioso appeared between both groups.

So, he said. Everybody is here at last.

This pain is unbearable, Alexa said in a raspy voice.

I don’t regret having my revenge, Megan said in a similar voice, but I feel worse now than I did before.

Is there no way to stop this pain? Tiffany asked, also in that voice.

No, Furioso said. There is no way that is easy. No way that will give you comfort. There is only pain for you all, from now on, forever and ever.

Then why did you goad us into getting revenge on all of them over there? Megan asked, pointing to the mass of victims behind Furioso. You said we’d get relief through our revenge. We feel no such relief at all.

I never said your revenge would ease your pain, he said. Only that you’d feel satisfaction, a brief pleasure, in making those poor souls on the other side share your pain. And you got it.

But now, with them all looking at us with so much malice in their eyes, Alexa said. It feels like they’re all going to resume their former bullying on us.

Yes, Tiffany said. They all hunger for revenge on us.

We can see it in the eyes of their apparitions, Megan said.

How could you lure us into a situation with even more suffering than the kind we’d started out with? Alexa asked. How could you take advantage of us like that, as vulnerable as we were?

Well, I am a devil, Furioso said, shrugging. Did you really expect anything better than this? You’re in Hell. Here, hope is to be abandoned forever.

What benefit do you get by deceiving us with thoughts of revenge? Megan asked. Damning all their souls with ours?

The same benefit that you get, he said. By bringing down here more and more souls, by passing the pain off to others, I feel a relief…if only a temporary one. People on Earth do it all the time. They, your bullies, did that to you, for that very same reason.

But our pain feels so much greater now, Tiffany said.

Yes, it always feels worse and worse, Furioso said with a sigh and a frown.

Then what good is that temporary relief through passing pain on to others? Alexa asked.

Because the pain worsens regardless of whether you pass it on to others, or not, he said. Temporary relief, by causing others’ grief, is the closest thing to happiness that the damned can ever hope to have in Hell. Is there anyone else on Earth you’d like to afflict, for a brief taste of satisfaction?

NO!!! all three girl-ghosts shouted together.

Then I’m afraid that there’s nothing that can be done for you, he said with a shrug. You’ll just have to stay here and suffer, without any kind of relief, even temporary relief.

Wait! Megan shouted. You said before that there’s no way to stop this pain…no way that is easy. No way…that will give us comfort.

That’s right! Tiffany shouted. So, there is a way.

A hard way, but a way, at least, Alexa said.

Well, yes, but you won’t like it at all, he insisted.

We don’t like our situation here at all! Alexa said.

Yeah, what difference will it make? Tiffany said.

Tell us what this hard way is, Megan said.

If it will get us out of Hell, we’ll do it, Alexa said.

You’re talking about enduring a pain far more acute than you are experiencing now, Furioso said.

But the pain will all end, right? Megan asked.

It will end because you, as individuals, will end, he said.

That’s fine with me, Tiffany said. We originally wanted to end our lives, anyway. We hated life because all we did was suffer in it. Existence is only suffering for us, on Earth, or here in Hell. So wiping out our existence means ending our pain. It’s nirvana, basically.

That’s true, Furioso said, but prepare for an ordeal you could never even imagine.

We’re in Hell, Alexa said. Where there’s no hope of ever feeling happiness again. This is the ultimate ordeal. How much worse can anything else get?

You’ll find out, he warned.

Tell us, Furioso! Megan said. What do we have to lose?

What do we have to do to get out of this? Alexa asked.

You really won’t like it, girls, he said, shaking his head.

TELL US, DAMN YOU! all three melting ghosts shouted.

He let out a sigh. Look at all those ghosts behind me, he said, gesturing to the girls’ victims. All those damned souls that you hate so much, and who now hate you. You must let go of your hate. Let go of your pride, and love them. Feel compassion for them, and for the suffering you’ve caused them.

WHAT?!!! all three girl-ghosts shouted together in disbelief.

Yes, he insisted. That’s the only way out of here. To end your suffering, you must endure far greater suffering. That’s the paradox of salvation.

The three ghosts were speechless. They mulled the matter over in a collective sulk.

What will be even harder, he said, is that you must allow yourselves to feel the very pain you caused them. You must suffer with them, for that is what compassion means.

The three melting spirits continued contemplating this solution to their problem in miserable silence.

It is your decision, he said. Either go through this ordeal, or be trapped here forever, continually melting until you’re an unconsolable puddle.

Could this be a trick? Tiffany wondered. He tricked us before with the revenge idea.

It sounds like too shitty a solution to be a trick, Megan said. If it were a trick, he’d make it sound more enticing.

As I said, it’s your decision, he said.

If we have to pity those bitches and bastards over there, Alexa said, why not have all of them experience this with us? Have them pity us, too.

Yeah! Tiffany said. It’s only fair. Then they can escape Hell, too.

They’ll ultimately benefit, too, Megan said. Since we’re supposed to be sympathizing with them, we’d want to help them, too. Also, they’ll know the pain they caused us, and they’ll understand why we wanted our revenge. And their hate will change to pity and remorse. I think that could be really satisfying for everyone.

Very well, Furioso said, then he turned to face all of those ghosts on whom the three girls had avenged themselves. All of you, who have had your lives ruined by these three! You don’t wish to remain in this infernal prison forever, do you?

No, they said in a weary sigh.

You heard me explain the only way out of this suffering? he asked.

Yes, they all moaned together.

Then swallow your pride as the girls must do, let go of your hate for them, as they must let go of their hate for you, and join them in this collective outpouring of compassion, he said.

With the most lethargic of reluctance, the mass of ghosts nodded.

‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part Five, Chapter 4

George just sat there at his mother’s side, watching her sleep. Another tear ran down his cheek.

He watched the rising and falling of her chest, each rise and fall reassuring him, if only for the moment, that she was still alive.

He checked her vital signs as they were displayed on the medical equipment by her bed. All was fine.

Still, he had that fear of something going wrong. The paradox was that he felt compelled to be there with her at all times, to watch over her and make sure she was OK, but also, there was that haunting voice that had kept telling him the only danger to her life was him.

She just lay there, sleeping peacefully. Her chest kept rising and falling, as it should have. The vital signs display still showed no problems.

He let out a huge sigh of relief.

She’s fine, he reassured himself in his thoughts. Don’t worry. You’re thinking too much. That voice in my head is probably just my unconscious expressing my resentment over never having been freed from her to live my own life. Such resentment is natural, it’s understandable; but it doesn’t mean I’m really, literally planning on murdering her. It’s just my mind acting out, in all probability. We all have dark thoughts: even the saints do.

He looked at her again–sleeping like a baby. Her chest kept rising and falling…good. He checked her vital signs one more time; no problems.

He let out another sigh.

Then he heard that voice again…this time, though, it was a little differently worded.

You’re going to murder her…today.

He jumped up from his chair with a yelp that woke up his mother. His heart was pounding. Now, a drop of sweat was running down his cheek.

He looked around the room frantically to find the source of that voice. Every time he’d heard it before, the whispered voice of what seemed a teenage girl, no one was there to be seen. This time, however, he saw her: Tiffany, the goth-girl ghost, with those malevolent red eyes.

“Tiffany?” he gasped with agape eyes.

Suddenly, the ghost flew into his chest with the speed of a racing arrow. His body shook as the spirit took possession of his body.

“George?” his mother asked in the weakest of voices. “What’s wrong? You woke me. Are you okay?”

His back had been to her, but now he turned around to face her with an icy expression.

“George? Please don’t look at me like that. You’re scaring me. Are you alright? You seem…a little…”

He ignored her words…that is, bodily, he ignored her. The George in his mind, however, desperately wanted to tell her he was not alright, that he was sorry for scaring her with that cold look on his face, that he was sorry for having woken her. He wanted to scream out to the hospital staff to come in the room and stop him from doing what he knew Tiffany’s ghost was making him do.

But he couldn’t say or do any of those things.

He felt himself compelled to get up and walk over to where his bag of medical instruments was, by his bed. He picked it up and unzipped it.

Tiffany, he thought. What are you doing?

He was made to take out a syringe. He walked back with it to his mother’s bed. He was eyeing her IV external tubing, through which blood was going into her body. He put two and two together.

Oh, my God! he thought. She wants to give my mother an air embolism. No, Tiffany, no!

Her ghost made him stick the syringe into the tubing and introduce an air bubble into it.

He had absolutely no control over his body. He couldn’t fidget or jerk his arms in the slightest. Tiffany’s ghost even made him look into his mother’s eyes to see the terror emanating from them.

“George,” she gasped. “What did you do that for? You’re killing me. Why?

He couldn’t weep. He couldn’t say sorry to her.

She looked at the long air bubble moving in the tube, getting closer and closer to her body. She began yelping, but the ghost made him cup his hand over her mouth to muffle out the sound.

As she fidgeted and struggled, she whined audibly enough that, if one of the hospital staff should have been close enough to their room, he or she just might have heard his mother’s muffled cries for help. Since he still had no control over his body, he could only hope a staff member was close enough to be in earshot, rush into the room, and stop him in time.

No such luck.

That air bubble, long enough to have been a three-to-five millilitres per kilogram dose, was inching closer and closer to entry in her body. She kept struggling and whining; he kept one hand on her mouth, the other on her chest to minimize the noise of the shaking of her bed.

Tiffany’s ghost forced him to look straight in his mother’s horrified eyes. He would not be spared a thorough observation of her pain, her terror, and her heartbreak over his oh, so unfilial act.

…and he had no way of telling her that it wasn’t himself who was doing this to her.

Why? her eyes kept asking him. Why, George?

I can’t tell you, he thought. I’m so sorry, and you’ll never even know I’m sorry. Tiffany, I may have bullied you in school, but punish me, not her.

Now, the ghost made him watch the air bubble reach her body and enter her. He looked back at her face. She was shaking all over for several seconds, then she moved no more.

The ghost left his body and, visible, faced him.

Finally, a waterfall of tears was soaking his face.

“I wish that block of ice we hit you with had killed you,” he hissed at the apparition.

Don’t be mad, George, she said. I did you a favour. I freed you from her. Now you can live your own life. She giggled at his teary face.

“Free to do what?” he asked in sobs. “Go to jail for murder? You fucking bitch.”

Only one thing left to do, George, Tiffany’s ghost said with a grin.

“Yes, I know,” he said. “I’ll see you in Hell…and when I get there, I’ll get you.

She laughed. There’s nothing to get. We’re in Hell. We’re already suffering beyond hope. How are you going to add to that?

“I’ll figure out a way.”

He walked back over to his bag, found a scalpel in it, slashed his wrists, and lay on the floor, soaking it with his blood until a nurse walked in and screamed.

Only by then, of course, it was too late.

‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part Five, Chapter 3

George Kelly’s 72-year-old mother was in bad shape. Just a few days before, she took a nasty fall down the stairs from the second floor to the ground floor of her apartment. She was already quite brittle, so one particularly hard knock on her upper right arm fractured it on the corner where the tread and riser of a stair meet.

Fortunately, George–who still lived with her–was there when the accident happened, having heard her scream from her apartment, which was right by the stairs. She’d meant to go to the grocery store just down the street to buy something, and she’d assured him that he didn’t need to accompany her; he could just relax in the living room and watch TV, for she’d be right back.

If only he’d accompanied her.

Instead of going to the grocery store, she of course went in his car to the hospital where he worked. He was a nurse, and he insisted on taking care of her personally.

She lay in her recovery room on a bed the upper half of which was raised up at about a forty-five degree angle. Her right arm was in a cast, going straight out from the side of the bed to the elbow, then going straight up from there.

George virtually never left the room. The rest of the staff liked and respected him enough to let him focus all of his care on her during his nursing shifts, and when his shifts were finished, he was allowed to stay with her even when she was sleeping and therefore not to be disturbed, which he of course would never do. He slept in a bed on the other side of the room, had a change of clothes handy, and food was sent to him as well as to her.

Why did he insist on being with her as much as possible? His love for her went far beyond the usual love of the most dutiful of sons. George, in his late thirties, never married. He was straight, but no woman could ever replace his sweet mother.

Though as a high school student, he’d bullied Tiffany along with Faye and all the others, George was far more of a ‘weakling’ (in the form of a ‘mama’s boy’) than Tiffany could ever have been. By calling her a “wimp,” he was really just engaging in projection.

His father died when he was six, so his mother’s burden of raising their one child was enormous. She’d been a timid, reclusive sort, with virtually no friends in the neighbourhood, so he became her best friend…in the Norman Bates sense, though without the psychopathy.

She was his entire world, and vice versa. Terrified of abandonment, she couldn’t bear the idea of him meeting a girl and marrying her, then moving away to some far-off city, his mother never seeing him again except for the ever-so-occasional visit.

So, in anticipation of such a scary prospect, his mother subtly manipulated her boy into such a state of emotional dependency on her that the idea of marrying and moving away would have been unthinkable to him. She even influenced his decision to become a nurse, so she’d have someone to take care of her in her old age…and now he would do just that for her.

On the third night of her hospitalization, he sat by her bed, his eyes tearing up. He knew in his intellect that with proper care, which she of course was getting, she would be fine and well again; but her fear of abandonment was something she’d managed to project onto him, so his emotions overruled his intellect, and any significant injury she’d sustain would put him in terror of her approach to death being at all pushed forward.

She lay there asleep. The medical equipment indicated, at a glance, that her heart rate and other vital signs were fine. He could see the rising and falling of her chest to indicate breathing; but the fear remained in his heart that that rising and falling would stop, even though he knew, in his medical expertise, that there was no reason for such a stopping to occur all of a sudden.

“Wake up,” he whispered in a barely audible voice. “Mom, please wake up.” He wanted her to wake up, but he didn’t want to be the cause of her waking up.

Her eyes opened. She looked at him and smiled.

“George,” she said in the frailest of voices.

“Oh, Mom,” he said, with a smile and a tear running down his right cheek. “I didn’t wake you, did I?”

“No, dear,” she said. “I just had a really good, long nap. I actually feel quite good, especially with you here. It’s comforting knowing my son, the best nurse in the world, is so dedicated to my recovery.”

“I am, Mom,” he sobbed. “Yet I’m so mad at myself for not insisting on going with you to the grocery store. When you slipped, I could have grabbed your arm and stopped you from falling.”

“We didn’t know this would happen. Don’t blame yourself.”

“You’ll be OK, Mom. Don’t worry. I’ll be sure of that.”

“I’m sure you will, son. But if you’re so sure, why are you crying?”

“I just hate to see you get hurt, Mom. There’s always that fear, in the back of my mind, of something…anything…going wrong.”

“What could possibly go wrong, honey?”

“Well, we assumed you’d be OK going to the store by yourself, and look what happened.”

“Oh, just because one thing went wrong doesn’t mean all manner of other things will go wrong, too. George, tell me: what’s worrying you so much? You always seem so afraid for me, and that’s sweet and all, but you’re making yourself needlessly unhappy, and that will affect your own health. What’s wrong?”

“Oh, nothing, I guess,” he said, looking down at his hands, which drooped between his knees. “I guess I’m just thinking silly thoughts.”

“Well, stop thinking silly thoughts,” she said, giving him a firm look. “Oh, I’ve gotten sleepy again. Back to sleep for me.” She closed her eyes.

“Good, Mom. Get some more rest.”

Actually, his thoughts weren’t all that silly. He just couldn’t tell her about the voice he’d hear, from time to time, a voice that he’d been hearing over the past year.

A voice that said, You’re going to murder her one day.

…and the speaker of that voice, invisible, was at that very moment hovering right beside him.

Two Horror Short Stories of Mine Published in ‘A Book Without A Name’

I have two horror short stories published in a new horror anthology, compiled by B.L. Blankenship, called A Book Without A Name. These stories are of specific sub-genres of horror: western horror, splatter western, and southern gothic.

My two short stories are called “Ghost Town” and “The Lake.” Other writers in the anthology include Blankenship, Dillon McPheresome, C. Derick Miller, Megan Stockton, and such classic writers as Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, William Blake, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Mary Wollstonecraft-Shelley, and Jason Roberts.

So, if you like horror stories with a bit of a 19th century, cowboy feel, please check out this anthology. You can find it on Amazon here. Thanks again to B.L. Blankenship for the chance to be published! 🙂

‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part Five, Chapter 1

Faye Oliphant and Brad Rolie, her husband of nine years, had been trying for the whole length of their marriage to have a baby.

It wasn’t an infertility or sterility problem. Actually, Brad had difficulty getting it up for her.

There were two main reasons for this problem. One was Brad’s secret addiction to internet porn, and its bevy of flawless, photoshopped beauties causing him to be used to that lofty standard of physical perfection in women, which the vast majority of women outside the fantasy world, of course, haven’t a hope of even approaching.

The second reason was Faye’s size, as of her thirties.

She was rather chubby in high school, recall; hence Tiffany’s changing of Faye’s surname to “Elephant,” and earning Faye’s hatred, as well as giving her a motive to bully Tiffany. By the time Faye had reached her thirties, though, her size had ballooned to that of a woman weighing almost five hundred pounds.

When Brad was dating her, in her late twenties and weighing around three hundred pounds at the time, he was deeply conflicted between his sincere love for her as a person and his distaste for her looks. He imagined that, over time, he’d outgrow his shallow preference for women with the bodies of models, and would be able to have a normal sexual relationship with her, getting aroused in bed with her based on his love for her.

No such luck.

She was so deeply hurt, on their wedding night, by his lack of enthusiasm for her in the bedroom that she found herself eating the pain away.

Hence, three hundred pounds became five hundred.

…and he’d sneak off to his computer for a good wank every night after she’d gone to sleep.

Still, she wanted to have a baby, her own baby, not an adoption. And so did he.

So they attempted lovemaking in the missionary position, at least once or twice a week, every year from their wedding night until now, with Faye at the age of 38. It had been so frustrating for them.

Faye’s self-esteem was so low that she didn’t even consider exercising or dieting. Brad was so ashamed of himself for not being “man enough” to get the job done that porn was his only escape from his depressing reality.

But one night, after seeing his dear wife in tears after having caught him masturbating to a PornHub video, Brad was determined not to fail in bed with her this time. He had to make it up to her, after having disappointed her for so long; after all, in spite of his porn problem, he did sincerely love her.

So, as absurd and pathetic as this must sound, he got on top of her that night, closed his eyes, and imagined as vividly as he could that he was about to screw the porn star he’d been watching on that video.

…and a miracle happened.

He actually got enough of a boner to stick it in her and pump away until he came inside her.

But would she get pregnant?

Actually, she did!

Both husband and wife were so thrilled to find out that they were dancing together in the doctor’s office.

When she had an ultrasound, it indicated she’d have a girl. Both parents were perfectly happy about this: a daughter was exactly what they’d been hoping for.

Family and friends congratulated her, celebrating with a huge party. These were the happiest moments of their whole marriage.

As the months went by, full of delightful anticipation for both of them, she was for the first time in her life happy to see herself getting bigger in the middle, and her weight going up. She crossed off the days on the calendar, impatient for the time when she was expected to go into labour.

And finally, the big day came. It would have been difficult getting her huge body into a car and over to the local hospital, so they managed to deliver the baby with a midwife right in their home.

As she was struggling, groaning, and screaming to get their daughter through the birth canal, she had her eyes squeezed shut almost the whole time.

…and with her eyes closed like that, neither she nor Brad or the midwife, so focused on the birth, noticed the malevolently grinning apparition of Tiffany’s ghost looking down on the mother-to-be.