Of Musings and Wonderings











{October 28, 2013}   Scardiff 2013

Yesterday, a few friends and myself headed to Scardiff, Cardiff’s first horror expo. And, you know what? It was awesome.

Started the day grabbing a few freebies by the door, including a copy of Tales from the Crypt and The Walking Dead. Wandered around for a bit, glancing over various products on offer including comics, books and other items, including creepy dolls and bears (dolls are terrifying as they are, they don’t need to be made more so), small vials of strange potions and trinkets on offer. None of us wanted to spend our cash until we’d had a proper look around, and I was glad I held back. There was just so much, and part of me wanted to throw my money at everyone.

Luckily. we grabbed a fair few leaflets and cards and the like, so when I get my own flat, I can hopefully decorate it with some cool, creepy stuff, including crystal skulls, dragon heads, and jars and vials of…well, more creepy stuff. As it is, even if I had the money I wouldn’t have anywhere to store any of the stuff I saw.

We headed for a panel, which I was quite excited about as I haven’t had the chance to do the whole panel thing before. Cardiff Comic Con talks got filled up really quickly, and panels…I dunno, I’ve always liked the idea of them. Anyway. We listened to the guys discussing the tropes of horror, and what makes vampires, werewolves, ghosts and zombies so long-lasting. Personally, I think it’s because they can be reinvented, constantly, to fit in with every new generation. They did cover that, and then went into why we keep reinventing them and returning to them. Which, to be honest, I could talk about, but it would take a whole blog post of its own.

Back inside the main room, we looked around a little more before I started buying stuff. Look out for reviews on these whenever I get the chance to go through them. I grabbed a copy an anthology of stories and comics, the first two issues of Stiffs, a zombie comic set in the South Wales valleys. Picked up three films – Dead Snow (because who doesn’t like zombie Nazis?), a Zombie double feature for 50p, including Night of the Living Dead and Revenge of the Zombies, and lastly, Terror of Dracula, which I got signed by the film’s star. He did ask if I was interested in the old films, and seemed quite pleased when I said I liked the 1933 version of Dracula. Terror of Dracula is apparently a throwback to the old films such as Hammer Horror, and as I do love the novel, I thought I’d give it a shot. Look out for my review on here whenever I get a chance to watch it.

My kind of swag!

My kind of swag!

One of the things I really do love is talking to the people behind the stalls. And they’re always willing to chat, artists talking about their work (when they’re not busy drawing), authors talking about – and trying to sell – their books, others just looking on with smiles as we gushed over the things they’d made. Most of the time, my comments were along the lines of “If I only had more money!” There were some beautiful (in a dark way) decorative items for sale, including small vials of potions, dragon skulls, crystal skulls and more. I picked up leaflets for the majority of vendors, hoping I can actually buy stuff from their websites, eventually.

One memorable stall was the zombie stall, selling DVDs, books, board games and other zombie-related stuff. From there, I got Dead Snow and an anthology of zombie stories. And, because I was buying direct from the authors or publishers, most of the books went into my bag cheaper than the RRP. So, I have a lot to read, enough to keep me going for a long while. And, again, look out for the reviews. The books themselves are a mix of horror and dark fantasy, some the sort of stuff I wouldn’t have picked up on my own. Safe to say, I’m very excited about diving into them.

IMAG0049We went to one more panel before leaving, this one about the next big thing in horror. There was something about this panel that struck me as particularly interesting. There were two guys who made low-budget horror movies, young guys, and, joining later on (running late), was a guy who had been in the business for a fair few years, worked commercially and made low-budget horrors in his spare time. When asked if they thought the next big thing would come from the low-budget, grass-roots or the commercial side (Hollywood), the younger guys said grass-roots. And I think they were right. They expanded on it, using the obvious examples. After all, Romero’s Night of the Living Dead was low-budget, made with a few friends, and look what it sparked off. Blair Witch Project created mass interest in the subgenre, the found footage film, and we’re still seeing that used a lot today.

The commercial guy, however, stated that he believed the next big thing would come from Hollywood, and mentioned that they are making a number of creature features, so obviously that’s the next big thing, right?

Well, no. Just because Hollywood makes it doesn’t mean it’s going to be popular. It might flop. It might make nothing and mean Hollywood won’t touch it again until they run out of ideas and go back to the barrel to scrape up some more. I’m not saying that is going to happen, creature features might well be popular in the next few years, but the real fans will look beyond Hollywood and towards what the ‘smaller’ guys are doing. And the internet, the ease of access for almost anything, means that if a film is well made, word of mouth, blogs, forums, etc. will get a decent film out there. Even if the film itself isn’t massively successful, if it gains enough momentum through the fans then Hollywood might look towards what the smaller guys are doing and do more stuff like it.

That’s my take on it, anyway.

But yeah, overall a brilliant day, and I have my fingers crossed that it’s done again.

 



nanowrimoLadies and gentlemen, ghosts and ghouls (it is, after all, almost Halloween), that time of the year is upon us once again. And, you know what, I am super excited for it.

I really do love NaNoWriMo. The first two times I tried, I failed quite miserably. Barely wrote anything. But for the last four years, I have somehow managed to hit the 50,000 word count before the end of November. At University, this was done between nights out, my birthday, visitors from home, essays and exams. Last year, it was done despite the fact that I was working a full-time job. Not only that, but I was in the midst of changing teams, taking on a lot of extra information.

This year, I’m working 8 – 4, so it’s more evening time for me to get stuck in. I have the 31st October and 1st November off, to give me a bit of a kick-start on the first day, and I’m taking the two days after my birthday off (13th & 14th November). Among the Halloween parties next weekend, the usual birthday meal with my family, a visit from my best friend from University and other family stuff that’s been going on recently, I’m hoping to have enough time to get ahead of myself early on so I don’t have to worry too much towards the end of the month. Oh! And the last day of the month is a Saturday. Which means I can stay up late on the Friday, and can do nothing but focus on the novel on the Saturday.

*deep breath*

I really am excited for it this year. I think part of it is because, unlike previous years, I’ve planned out bits and pieces of the novel. I did try this the first two years, but the ideas themselves fell a little flat early on. I was also in my last year of A Levels, then working a 12 – 8 shift in work, neither of which left a lot of time for novel writing, unfortunately. My first year of University, I wasn’t even going to do it. But 1st November, I had an idea for a novel which became Into The Night, (three versions of which, the third currently in progress, can be found on my Fictionpress page here) and decided to make it my NaNoWriMo novel. That year, I just about made it to 50,000. The last few years have, oddly, been easier, even if I have been busier. Into The Night turned into a trilogy, one I’ve loved writing, and although I’ve had two which I looked at after and kind of though ‘meh’, I have a special love for the first two NaNoWriMos I completed.

This year, I’m planning to do a horror novel. It’s going to be about a young guy, Mason, brought up as a hunter, going after various ghosts, ghouls, demons, all that stuff. Inspired, just a tad, by Supernatural, but Mason isn’t on his own, and there are going to be plenty of unnatural creatures working alongside him, as well as some other hunters that are coming alive, slowly, in my mind. Including two I’ve actually written a short story about (which you can read here if you so wish), called Seth and Holly. I started off by researching Celtic gods and Welsh myths and legends, as I want the novel, like a lot of my others, to have a Welsh feel to it. I’ve also looked into monsters from around the world, reading through Christopher Dell’s Monsters, A Bestiary of the Bizarre. And you know what, it’s made me really miss the research aspect of University.

I can’t wait to get started. And I will be posting excerpts up here, maybe along with a couple of character profiles and the like.

Bring it on!

In others news, I know I’ve been way behind in my TV reviews. I’ve also been behind in my actual TV reviewing. There’s been some bad family stuff going on recently, and things have gotten worse in the last week or so. I really haven’t had time for blogging, or even watching TV. But like I said, I will have a little more time in the next few weeks (hopefully!) so I can post (among other things) about Arrow, the novel Flu, Stephen King’s Dark Tower series and probably a lot of other things I’ve forgotten.

Oh, and Scardiff, which takes place tomorrow and I am oh so happily attending. My first horror expo! I’ll let you guys know all about it when I have a chance.

And, as I’m always interested in the people who read this, too, let me know if there’s anything you’re looking forward to this month. Participating in NaNoWriMo? Interesting events you’re attending? Or just looking forward to curling up by the fireplace with a nice cup of hot chocolate?



Fallen

The House

“During the nineteen seventies, the young couple that brought this house claimed they heard mysterious noises in the night. The disturbances grew worse and they found their only child sleepwalking multiple times. On one memorable occasion, they found their son Matthew standing in the kitchen, a knife held at his own throat. When he woke, he had no memory of the incident.”
At the back of the tour group, a lanky young man in his mid-twenties scoffed. His dark hair fell in strands over his eyes, and most of the group members who turned to look at him missed his eyes rolling. The girl beside him nudged his side, but as the tour leader’s gaze fell on him, he smiled.

“Please. It’s just all bullshit made up to sell a story. How much did the couple make from saying their seven year old son almost killed himself?”

The woman who had been speaking gaped. “Sir, there are people here who are genuinely interested in hearing the morbid and fascinating history of this house. If you are not here for the same reason, then I must ask you to leave.”
He grinned, shaking his head. “You don’t know anything about the history of this place.” With that he turned and headed out into the foyer, decorated with paintings of people over a century dead, a coat of arms hanging at the top of the stairs. The girl followed.

“Do you have to be so stubborn?” she muttered, as they headed past the receptionist desk. The desk was set right in the middle of the floor, greeting people the moment they stepped into Britain’s biggest haunted house. “I know the Carter’s story is bullshit, David, but really! Do you have to make a scene?”

He carried on walking, dipping his head at the bored young girl at the desk. She giggled, blushed and turned back to the computer as he pushed open the big oak doors and stepped onto the porch.

“It just pisses me off, is all,” he muttered, taking a cigarette packet out of his pocket and lighting one, inhaling deeply as he stared out at the grand garden, complete with lengthy driveway, steel gates and bushes cut to look like animals. “I mean, they’re taking money from tourists and they don’t even know the true history of this place.”
“I know, Seth.” She reached out, putting a hand on his shoulder. “But how are they supposed to know?”

“They’re exploiting people.”

“People who are probably well aware that what they’re being sold is fiction,” she said. “You really think half the people who walk into this place believe in ghosts? They just want to see the place the Carter’s lived. That’s all.”

“Bloody bastards,” he muttered, running a hand through his hair. “They got just enough right, too.”

“The accounts had holes in it, though.” She glanced around, before grabbing his hand and leading him off the porch and around, to the back of the house. “Do you think the kid was like us?”

“Sure he was. He’d have done a hell of a lot more interviews if he was faking it.”
“Okay. So. We have Mummy and Daddy, down on their luck, hear about this magnificent place going cheap because it needs a lot of work done to it.” They crossed the back garden, walking on the perfectly kept grass until they reached the car park at the very back. “Look at the house. You see it?”
Seth turned, eyes scanning the back of the house. Through the huge glass doors that led out onto the patio, he could see the tour group. Lifting his gaze, he glanced over the windows of the bedrooms. “Yeah, I see it,” he muttered, eyes locked on the window at the far right, in what would have been the Carter kid’s bedroom. The curtain dropped, hiding the figure from view. “Holly?”

“Yeah?”
“You were saying?” He leant against their car, as she unlocked the door and sat on the passenger seat,  sitting half out the car, so her legs were hanging out and she was facing the house. She reached down under the seat and pulled out a folder, rifling through it until she found what she was looking for.

“So. They buy the house in, what was it, 1973?” She scanned the page. “No, sorry. ’72. Move in early ’73. But the house is practically in ruins, barely any of it inhabitable. They see potential in having it as a tourist destination.”

Seth nodded. “Makes sense.”
Her eyes flickered up to him, before falling back to the page. “But it costs a lot of money to do up a place like this, so they borrow left, right and centre.”
“Idiots.”

“You got to remember, Seth. They’d convinced themselves they’d make the money back.”
“But, at this point, they were just expecting it to be a run of the mill stately home, right?”

She nodded. “Right. If they’d brought it two decades later, well, they would have had more luck. But as it was, they contacted a few tour companies and none of them were interested.”
Seth glanced back at the house. The doors to the patio were opening, the tour group filtering out with the guide gesturing across the garden. Probably telling them how the Carter’s had claimed to have seen a man, hanging from one of the trees.

“They got company,” Seth muttered, nodding his head towards the group. Holly looked up, eyes roaming over the crowd before spotting what Seth was talking about. At the back of the group was a woman in a white gown, arms wrapped around herself as if she was cold or scared. Her head turned suddenly, eyes fixing on the pair by the car.

Seth waved.

The woman’s mouth formed a small ‘o’, before she disappeared.

“We got to help them, Seth,” Holly whispered, shaking her head. “God knows what they’ve been through since this place became a tourist haven.”
“God doesn’t know,” Seth said. “God was never a ghost.”

X X X

They returned late at night. The gates were locked, the staff all gone home for the night. On the way home earlier in the day, Holly had outlined the rest of the events during the Carter’s time in the house. Seth had been the one to point out all the holes, Holly nodding along in agreement.

The Carter family was made up of Papa Joseph, Mama Mary and little son Jack. It had been Jack who had seen the ghosts, Jack who had told his mother of the little kid who came to play with him and the woman who sat in the rocking chair, knitting as she watched over the children.

The story had made headlines in the UK, but had remained pretty much national. A few years later, in New York, events that seemed to have more basis in truth – though, Seth always claimed, the actual horrific events in the house were much easier to get hold of – would become famous. There had been no films made of the Carter’s time in the English countryside, but there had been a few books. Books which had first bombed, then picked up in sales when people scrambled for their own British Amityville Horror.

Of course, once the events in Amityville were revealed, the Carters began doing talks about what had happened to them. Their son, twelve years old by then, had tried to do as little as he could, had shied away from the reporters. As soon as he was old enough, he left the family home and disappeared from the public eye.

Jack was the key to the story, the one who saw the first ghost, who saw just enough for anyone who knew anything about the history of the house to verify what he said. But before he cut himself off, he had turned around and said he had made the whole thing up. His parents testified differently, but without Jack, it became clear that the ghosts they claimed to have seen were pure imagination.

Seth climbed up over the iron fence, landing easily on the gravel of the parking lot. Holly followed, clutching her backpack tightly. Her eyes moved to the house.

“Our friend’s back,” she muttered, nodding her head towards the window.

At Seth’s hip, hanging like a sword, was a cross. It swung back and forth as he moved towards the house, one careful step at a time. The crucifix was made of plain silver. On his other hip was a vial of holy water and, besides that, a small pot of salt.

In her backpack Holly carried more technologically advanced gear. Seth had been brought into the whole sorry mess by two men in their fifties, two men who taught him everything he knew. Holly had the blessing of being taught by her parents, two people who always had the latest gadgets and gizmos, whatever it was.

Now, she glanced down at the cross.

“Can you feel that?” he muttered, as they headed closer to the house.

“Yeah. More than I could today.” She reached a hand out, stopping him as she swung the pack off. “You sure that’s going to be enough?” she asked, gesturing to his belt as she lowered herself and the bag to the floor. On her knees, she opened the pack and rummaged through it.

“Your gadgets could fail,” he said, hand wrapping around the bottom of his crucifix. “This won’t.”

They had had the discussion a hundred times, and neither was willing to give the other way a chance. Holly’s gadgets hadn’t failed yet, and Seth’s simple items had protected him enough times for his faith in them to remain strong.

She took out a small, circular device. The screen was black, with a single green arrow twitching on it, like a compass needle trying to find north. Holly stood straight, held the item in the palm of her hand, and stared down at it.

The arrow shook before it began to spin madly. Holly frowned. “I’ve never seen it do that before…”

“See? Your gadgets can fail.”

Holly frowned at him before putting the compass back and pulling out a black box, a similar screen on it. Instead of an arrow, however, the screen was dotted with numbers. She held it in front of her, watching as the numbers skyrocketed.

“You shouldn’t need technology to tell you what you can feel,” Seth said, grabbing her under her shoulder and pulling her to her feet. Hastily, she grabbed the bag and slung it over her free shoulder, shooting a quick glare towards him.

“You know I’m not as sensitive as you are.”
“Whatever. Come on.”

“Why do you always have to be like this?”

“Be like what?”

“Like…” She waved a hand at him. “You act like you’re forty, not twenty-six. You’re my age, Seth, not older, so stop treating me like a little kid.”

He held a hand up, palm flat as he raised a finger to his lips. She fell silent, turning her gaze towards the house.

The house really did have a sordid and horrible history. It had been sold, cheap, to the Carters, because to the locals it was cursed. They knew the stories, they knew the rumours, and they had refused to tell them to anyone when the reporters had come knocking. As far as the locals were concerned, they didn’t want to give more fuel to the Carters.

It had started life in pretty much the same way every other stately home did. Built by the rich man who owned the farmlands nearby, to house him, his wife, their children and the servants.

Seth lifted a hand, gesturing to the patio. There, in the doorway, stood the same woman they had seen following the tour group.

“Edna Rose,” Holly muttered, and Seth nodded his agreement.

The first victim of the house.

Edna stared at them and even in death, she was beautiful. There had been no photos of her, but the people in the village had passed down descriptions of her through the generations. She had only been a young girl when she had arrived at the house, seventeen, eighteen maybe. Sleek dark hair and round eyes, seeking work as a servant. She had been put in the kitchens, out of sight of the mistress. The mistress of the house, who by then had had three children, had been instantly jealous of the girl. But as the weeks progressed, the master had demanded more and more often that the girl be moved into the general household chores, giving him more glances at her.

The rumours claimed he would usher her into his study, cleaning there while he was ‘working’. Beyond that, what happened in there wasn’t known though everyone had their guesses.

As Seth and Holly watched, Edna turned and walked back into the house.

“Come on,” he said, grabbing Holly’s hand and yanking her forward, up the stairs. At the doors, Holly knelt down, taking a lock pick from her pocket and working on the lock itself. Seth stared in through the windows. The patio doors led into the parlour, where Edna now stood, tears streaming down her face as her hands moved through the air, having a conversation she had probably repeated constantly over the hundred or so years she had been dead.

Seth winced as Edna’s head went back, a bright red streak of blood appearing on her neck. The ghost’s knees buckled and she fell to the floor, dead before she even hit it. The ghost disappeared.

“Damn it,” he muttered. “What’s the time?”

Holly checked her watch. “Just gone eleven.”

He nodded, letting her return to the lock as he stared inside. “How many do you think are in there?”

“Well, Edna was the first violent death,” Holly muttered. “There were at least something like nine confirmed, over the years. But there’s probably more.”

“Always are.”

The door clicked and Holly stepped back, flashing a grin at Seth.

“After you, darling.”

“Not scared, are you?”

“When am I ever scared, Holly? Beauty before age, that’s all.”

“Yeah, yeah. Whatever.” She waved a hand before stepping inside, glancing around the room carefully as Seth followed her in. They walked through the parlour, Holly shivering as they passed over the spot where Edna’s ghost had disappeared. “Can’t do anything for her. Not at the moment,” she said, glancing up towards the ceiling. Seth turned his head, staring at the door that led into the foyer.

“She’s back, mind.”

Holly turned to see the ghost walking slowly through the corridor, glancing around nervously. “What do you think?”
“I think she’s been called by her mistress. Come on, let’s head upstairs. We need to know how many there are for sure.”
They passed into the foyer. The villagers called the house cursed. No one who had lived there for long had survived, either being killed, committing suicide or dying by strange accidents around the house.

“There’s more than nine,” Seth muttered, spotting the shapes and figures flickering out of the corner of his eye.

“Well, nine murders,” Holly said, a light blush creeping across her cheeks. “It was harder to get the figures on the rest.”
Hanging from the stairs was a man, in his forties, dressed in the style of third decade of the 1900s. On the floor beneath him was a letter. The man twitched and jerked, before becoming still. Holly crept over to the letter.

“Draft letter,” she said. “Second World War.”

Behind them was a body, shuddering in the last throes of death, clutching at his neck. They caught glimpses of him, of his arm moving up to his head, his leg twitching, through the desk. By the door was a woman in her thirties, wearing the sort of clothes fashionable in the fifties. As Seth watched, her head went back, a bullet hole appearing just above her eyebrows. She went down, landing flat on her back.

“There’s a lot of power here,” Seth said. “Don’t feel anything particularly nasty though, not yet.”
“I don’t get it,” Holly said, eyes going from one ghost to another. “Why here? There’s nothing really special about this place.”
“Curse on the house?” Seth suggested. “If a witch was really powerful….”

“Like that one last year?” Holly nodded. “Maybe. But she would have been, like, super strong, to bind them here this long.”
“So maybe we’re dealing with a super strong witch.” Seth got to his knees, running a finger along the floor. It was immaculate, no dust or dirt anywhere. “Or maybe the land enhanced whatever power they had.” He dipped his head, frowning.

Holly was transfixed by the staircase. It dominated the middle of the room, leading up to the first floor. From there, the balcony ran alongside the bedrooms and bathrooms. But she wasn’t taking note of the craftsmanship. Instead she was watching as a little boy came out of one of the rooms, tottering along. He had come from the room where the Carter boy had slept, and she wondered if he was the first ghost the child had seen.

The boy was laughing, glancing over his shoulder like someone was chasing him. A nanny, Holly assumed, terrified of the accident that could befall a boy in such a big place. And she would have been right to be scared. A rug appeared, flickering, right at the top of the stairs. The boy’s foot caught on it and he went down, tumbling head over heels.

She heard a snap, just before his body came to land at the bottom of the stairs, eyes open and looking up at the ceiling. Wailing filled the house.

“Shit.” Seth leapt to his feet, eyes fixed to the floor as he rubbed his hand against his jeans. “Where did most of the deaths take place, Holly?”

“Down here,” she said. “Here and the parlour.”

“But there were still some upstairs?”

She gestured to the body of the boy, now beginning to disappear. Seth didn’t say anything, just moved quickly towards the stairs. Holly followed, wrapping her fingers around the strap of her backpack. She took the stairs two at a time, trying to keep up with him. At the top, Seth turned and headed straight for the bedroom where they’d seen the ghost in the window.

When he opened the door, the ghost was there. She turned from the window and faced them. Curly blonde hair fell down her shoulders. Her eyes were wide, bright blue. She looked the picture of innocence. Like an angel, even.

“Help me,” she said, gliding forward until she was in the middle of the room. “Help me.”
“Who is it?” Holly asked, from beside Seth.

“I don’t know.”

The girl, wearing a white nightgown, turned away from them and continued to stare out the window. Seth closed the door, moving back and heading for the next room. A boy sat on the floor, a woman – his nanny – in a rocking chair.

“It’s a different boy,” Holly said. “From the one that fell down the stairs.”

Seth grunted, clutching his chest as his breathing became heavy. “Jesus, no wonder the Carter kid never wanted to talk.”

“What? Why?”
“You can’t feel it?”

She focused, closing her eyes as she moved into the room. When her eyes opened, they both watched as the nanny put down her knitting and crossed to the window. She opened it, flung herself out. The boy screamed and, in his panic, followed her.

“This room,” he muttered. “It’s…bloody hell.”

“Why is there so much power here?” She asked. “I thought you said it was coming from the ground?”

He walked further into the room. Although the main stories came from the Carter family, the company that now owned the house tried to give it a historical look, taking inspiration from the time periods in which the ghosts the Carters claimed to have seen had lived. In the child’s bedroom, there was an old Victorian era rocking horse. Seth moved towards it, running his hand over it. He swore and pulled his hand back quickly, wincing.

“Some ghosts,” he said, rubbing his hand. “They live off fear, or imagination, or a mixture of both.” He glanced around the room. “The power originated from the ground below. No idea why, it might just have innate power, like Stonehenge.”

Holly nodded.

“But if all you have in here is children, and they see these ghosts over and over again…”

“They’re going to get scared,” she finished. “And kid’s imaginations are stronger than adults.” She nodded slowly, absorbing it. “We do deal with kids, a lot.”

“Yeah. I think we need to clear out this room, first.”

The nanny and the boy were back, acting out their last moments. The boy glanced up at the pair. “Play with me?” he asked.

Holly knelt down beside him.

“Leave them alone,” the nanny said. “Can you not see they are busy?”

Seth looked around, carefully absorbing what he could about the room. There was nothing particularly special about it, nothing that hinted towards the reason someone would have cursed the place. But he knew from his own experience, some people didn’t need a reason to issue a curse. For some, it was simply to test their own powers, or acting out against the world at large.

“Holly, no!” he cried, as she began to move towards the window. Her backpack was against the wall, and he cursed himself for not having given her any protection amulets. Seth leapt forward, grabbing her arm and yanking her back hard enough that she fell to the floor.

The nanny was out the window, the boy following her. Holly’s eyes were glazed over, and Seth, without thinking, dropped to the floor, straddling her with his hands pinning her arms down.

She blinked, just a few times, and life returned to her eyes.

“Seth?” she muttered. “Why are you pinning me down?”

He let her go, but stayed in place as he ripped a bracelet off his wrist.

“Seth?”

The bracelet was simple, strips of leather wound together. On the back were markings, symbols of protection. Seth slid the leather bracelet under Holly’s wrist and tied it together.

“You never take that off,” she said.

“You need something,” he muttered, getting to his feet and holding his hand towards her. “It should stop you jumping out the window, at least.”

“Jumping out the…” She laughed. “Don’t be silly.”

“You almost did.”

“You’re not joking, are you?”

“Don’t you say you can count the jokes I’ve made on one hand?”

Under his gaze, she blushed. From the belt, Seth took the salt and holy water. He held both in one hand, uncorking the water and sprinkling it across the room.

“Well,” he said. “Speak.”

“Oh, right.” Holly took a deep breath and began to recite a verse in Latin. As she spoke, Seth began to alternate between the water and salt, his voice soon joining in with hers.

At the edges of the room, a darkness crept forward.

“It’s fighting back, Seth,” she whimpered, stepping closer to him.

He said nothing in reply, just continued with the verse and shot her a look. She nodded and recited the words once more, eyes fixed on the darkness slowly edging forward.

“Look away, Holly.”

But she couldn’t. The darkness had her caught, images rising up on it like a cinema screen coming to life. Her, six years old, screaming as her mother held her back and her brother was dragged away from them, begging and pleading as their mother cried and he was yanked down into hell.

Fifteen, sneaking into an eighteen rating horror film with her friends, thinking they were so cool and adult and mature and they could totally handle it. The others could, but two of them had to half carry her out towards the end, when the ghosts converged on the heroes, and all she could see was her brother and the boy they hadn’t saved and the parents who had sacrificed themselves for their children…

Hands on her shoulders, pulling her back. She struggled against him, crying and shivering as Seth wrapped his arms around her and kept on speaking the verse, over and over again, throwing handfuls of salt and water at the darkness.

He positioned himself between her and it, keeping Holly behind him as he faced the dark. Seth moved forward as Holly crumpled to the ground, whimpering.

The ghosts that had been in the room appeared and disappeared rapidly, flashing in and out of his vision. He ignored them, ignored the cries of children that filled his ears, ignored the sight and sound of Katherine’s death, replayed to him over and over again.

Seth’s voice rose as if to cover it all. He sprinkled the last of the salt and tore the crucifix off his belt, holding it out towards the dark.

The words tumbled from his mouth and behind he could hear Holly reciting the Lord’s prayer, her voice quiet and meek, but enough, enough with the faith that was behind it, the faith that burned bright in Holly as it never did in Seth, the faith that amongst all the evil they faced there was still good and light and hope.

Seth finished and the darkness disappeared, leaving behind only the room and the ghosts. The nanny stared at him, clutching the hand of the boy.

“I can rest now?” she asked, eyes full of tears. Seth nodded.

“You can rest.”

They faded, the nanny smiling and thanking them until her voice was gone from the air.

Holly stepped closer to Seth, arms wrapped tightly around herself as she glanced around the room with frightened eyes.

“It was powerful,” Seth said, reaching a hand out before drawing it back. Holly didn’t look at him, just gazed out at the window. “We need to leave,” he said, putting his cross back. “Before the rest of the house senses what happened.”

She nodded and backed out of the room, her eyes scanning every inch and corner until she was at the top of the stairs. Seth followed, speeding up as Holly did, making their way down.

“We have to come back, don’t we?” she whispered, as they headed for the parlour.

“Yes. It’s strong, and if we leave it…”

She threw her shoulders back, lifted her chin up and nodded, striding ahead of him. “It’ll defend itself,” she said. “Not just against us.” They came to the patio and she turned, staring right into the house with eyes full of anger. “We’ll come back,” she said, to the house and not to him. “And we’re going to kick your arse.” With that she turned and headed for the car, Seth chuckling as he went after her.



Coloradokid_pbLooking at the cover, I don’t think the person who designed it actually read the book. The female character isn’t some sultry noir seductress. She’s a reporter, working for the local paper and learning about the town she’s in from Dave and Vince, two aging reporters who have taken her under their collective wings, to impart their knowledge on her.

After a meal with a reporter from a bigger paper, looking for unsolved mysteries, Dave and Vince explain that there is a mystery that’s never been solved, a mystery they did not mention to the other guy. They begin telling her the story, and so we learn of the figure known as the Colorado Kid.

The book apparently inspired the TV show Haven, though to be honest, I’m starting to think they used it just to give them something they could claim they were inspired by. The town in the book isn’t called Haven, and all I can see that they took from it are the journalists Vince and Dave (though they made them brothers rather than just partners in business). Even the Colorado Kid case is completely different. In the book, he’s a man in his forties with a wife and kid back home. In the show, he’s a teenager/young man who is murdered. And the novella doesn’t have any hint of troubles or anything unusual, except for the guy’s death. Yes, there are mysterious things that happen, but they read as just your run of the mill unknown events rather than anything further.

So, in part, I blame Haven for my disappointment in the novella. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t seen the show first, but then again, I don’t think I would have known the novella existed without the show.

The other problem I have with this is that there’s no satisfying end. King does mention in his notes, at the end, that he was more interested in the what happened rather than explaining it, which is fine, but there’s not even a hint towards what actually happened to the dead man. There’s nothing towards an explanation. If there had been stronger hints that it was an unusual town, some mention of the supernatural or paranormal or whatever, then maybe it would have worked. As it was, overall, it feels rushed.

It’s the only King book I’ve read, to date, that I didn’t really enjoy. It just doesn’t feel like it gels together. Give me Audrey, Duke and Nathan over this any day. I’d recommend, rather than reading it, actually reading Joyland or even watching Haven. At least in that we find out what really happened to the show’s own Colorado Kid.



american-horror-story-coven-2If you failed to watch the first two seasons of American Horror Story, I strongly suggest checking them out. But the beauty of this show is that it doesn’t matter what order you actually watch the seasons in, or if you skip them, because each season tells its own story with its own unique characters. I will say, however, missing a season does kind of detract from the sort of delight you might get in seeing brilliant actors returning in completely different roles. For example, the brilliant Evan Peters. Season one, he’s evil. He’s a kid trapped in the afterlife, as a ghost, after being shot by police for a school shooting. He rapes the mother of the family who have moved into the house he resides in, and ends up being the father of the antichrist. And yet, Evan Peters makes Tate sympathetic. He creates a character you actually feel sorry for, and as a result, you’re watching him with completely conflicted feelings. Season two, he’s a sweet guy who gets arrested when people mistake him for a serial killer, and he’s thrown into a mental asylum. In this season, he appears in the first episode as a frat boy, trying to keep his brothers in line so they don’t get their fraternity disbanded.

Three totally different characters, and he brings them all to life.

Season One told the story of a family who moved into a haunted house. Season Two was about a mental asylum, with some not quite holy nuns running the place. So far, we have ghosts, serial killers, possession and aliens, all in two seasons. So what could season three possibly bring to the table?

Witches.

American-Horror-Story-Coven-TeaserWe’re introduced to the main character, Zoe, played by Taissa Farmiga. I have to admit, I kind of missed her in the second season, and loved seeing her come back. There’s a nice teenage-show touch to this season, with Zoe’s monologue playing at the start and towards the end, taking a feature of TV and turning it around, as Zoe discovers her powers. After she kills her boyfriend, she’s shipped off to a school where she meets three other girls like her, and the headmistress, there to try to help these girls control their powers.

They’re not typical witches, with wands and broomsticks and the like. Instead, each girl has their own individual power, something they can do and others cannot. It’ll be interesting to see this played with throughout the show.

It feels like a pilot episode. In a way, it sort of is, with each season being told separate to each other. And it works, to introduce the characters, themes and to show us what to expect. There’s some lovely dramatic, horror-moments, as well as some real drama underlying it all, especially when two of the girls go to a frat party. On the surface, it really does look like it could be a teenage programme about witches, but dig a little deeper and you find a lot more about that. There are issues being raised here, something that personally (with the exception of some Glee episodes) I think Ryan Murphy does well. Nothing is thrust into your face with this show, and most things are simply left for the viewer to decide, left for the viewer to make their own judgements on. And it works. It makes American Horror Story not just something to watch, but something to think about. And it’s one of the reasons I love the show. It treats its audience as intelligent, able to think for ourselves. We’re not spoon fed with “Oh, look how evil this person is,” but it does show how evil actions can be done by the most human, and how those actions can sometimes have consequences (and how sometimes, evil gets away with it for a while.)

Overall, I loved the opening episode of this season, and I think, with the characters and ideas introduced, I’m going to really enjoy the rest of the season.



et cetera