The Ladies of Horror Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
Odonates by Nina D’Arcangela
Beautiful creature of destruction; you are the embodiment of majesty and grandeur darting through the air; humming past in the blink of an eye, stunning your prey into a shock of paralytic fear; engaged always in aerial combat with the currents that fight your forward progress; rising, dropping, jerking, zipping.
What is it you seek on those elegant gossamer wings? Perhaps the next meal that awaits you… What else would a voracious thing such as yourself desire? You, with your crushing mandibles and gnashing teeth, so willing to consume all that cross your path and thereafter, your gullet. A beast of miniscule proportion whose lust to sate itself knows no bounds – respects no boundaries.
The patter of rain does not deter you from the hunt – your need for nourishment is all consuming; it’s all your…
Andy could never stand being indoors. He could walk for miles. He was the explorer of his family. His father worked for the local bank, a career that his dad hoped he would follow. His mother worked part-time in the local dentist as a receptionist. His older sister was just finishing high school, she dreamed of being a model. Her parents worried about this; Andy was just bemused by it. He thought her an ugly pig.
Andy, well Andy just liked to explore. He was never happier than when he was on his own, in his own adventure.
It was a particularly barmy day. The sun beamed down on the fields and trees causing the early morning dew to evaporate. It hung in the air like the kind of mist one would usually only see when running a hot shower. His neck was hot and sweaty so he decided to…
A tear in the guf, just one, but that’s all it took. The souls within gathered, reformed, cocooned themselves and fused to form a carapace of glistening darkness. But Mother’s rain was too fierce; it scorched hot as a dying sun while pouring forth. A torrent of strangled screams and cacophonous pops emanated from the protected realm. You see, the guf was not a sacred holding of Heaven, or Hell for that matter, but a cave formed eons ago when Mother seeded her child and named it Earth. Those that ambled the surface refuted her love. They dreamt of one they called Father: followed his tenants, drank his child’s blood, ate of his flesh – and Mother felt the betrayal. Now, as she tore apart this most sacred place with molten rage captured in tears, she would recreate what should have been her most loyal child…
Softly settles East End fog, thick with industry’s residue. It leaves an oily coat on the skin,
plays games with the vision. Forms appear and vanish in the mist, the stink of piss and rotten meat, slimy creatures of dark alleyways. These streets, the Ripper’s playground.
Me being young, and with no binding ties, I once went slumming with the lads. Begging favors of Miss Mary, we taking turns with her to satisfy our bursting loins. And that she did with competence, such was her service for our coins. When we were done, we bade good night and off she went into that dense Whitechapel fog.
Years passed, and I’m a doctor now, with a different take on whores. They’re still corrupting honest men, giving them most dreadful maladies. I should know, being one among them on that certain night. Now I walk these midnight streets alone, carrying my own…
As a horror writer, naturally I have an affinity for literature, as well as movies. But what I talk little about are video games, and the value they provide the horror genre.
Video games have been a significant and important part of my life. Ever since I had a Pong set, then moved to the Atari 2600, and on to the NES, I played and loved every gaming console since. I grew up on them, my kid grew up on them.
To me a good game is a work of art, much like a novel or movie. A video game combines multiple art forms into one piece. What’s compelling about horror games is they put you directly in the action. You control the character, and for first-person view games, you are the character. Suddenly, running from nightmarish monsters can be quite terrifying and if you’re really into the game, it actually gets your heart pumping. You feel the excitement and adrenaline rush of trying to stay alive.
Not all games are created equal. Just because you pick up a horror themed game doesn’t mean it’s going to scare the hell out of you. Games such as the Dead Rising series are great games, lots of fun to play, and even have nods to classic zombie movies, but they aren’t frightening.
I recently played a game called Outlast. Now that’s the kind of game I’m talking about! It’s a first-person view survival game, where you play the part of a journalist sneaking into an abandoned mental asylum for a story. There are no weapons. You can’t fight. You’re armed with only a video camera, luckily equipped with night vision when you need it. But the batteries can run out. When being chased by a psychopath with a machete or a mutated creature from beyond, all you can do is run, hide, and hope they don’t find you. Trying to navigate an enormous labyrinthian mental asylum in this manner was damn hard, it really got my blood pumping!
Alien: Isolation is another that comes to mind. Also a first-person survival game, it’s based on The Ridley Scott Alien movies. In this game, you’re on a ship with a Xenomorph. You do get a few measly weapons. But nothing worthy of actually trying to fight with. They’re mostly meant for distracting the Xenomorph so you can run the other way and hope it doesn’t kill you. The game plays a lot like Outlast, but in Alien: Isolation, the Xenomorph is highly sensitive to sound picked up by a microphone in the controller. Make too much noise, you’re dead. Also, unlike Outlast, the alien appears randomly rather than the specifically placed foes in the mental asylum. This makes for surprise attacks and increased uncertainty. You never know where it’s going to be.
Virtual Reality is the next great leap in horror gaming. If playing the game on a screen in your living room has allowed some games to incite actual anxiety, I look forward to seeing what the future of horror can do with a game where you really are in the middle of the action.
As a lifelong horror fan, I’m used to seeing all kinds of horrors, be it monsters, violence, or otherworldly. Even psychological horrors run amuck (one of my personal favorites). I also find horror therapeutic. After watching a horror film or reading a horror book or story, I feel a sense of release. When I went into recovery for postpartum depression and anxiety, I looked for horror films and fiction that identified with that pain. There weren’t many to be found.
Sure, there’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” But that was written in the late 1800s. I couldn’t find anything more modern. There are lots of horror films that feature mothers in peril or evil babies, or evil/murderous mothers, but that wasn’t quite was I was looking for either. I wanted something that identified the horrors of a new mother’s own mind and showed her triumphant…
The Endless Hallway is a novella about a young mother’s struggles with postpartum depression and anxiety (PPDA). It is my story.
Well, a fictionalized version of my reality.
While in therapy to recover from PPDA, I spoke with my therapist about the story I was writing. I tend to start everything as a short story – that keeps the pressure off. I was dealing with so much internal pressure already; I didn’t want to add lofty ambitions like novella or novel. We brainstormed and troubleshot the ideas I had. I was stuck on the ending – or, rather, I didn’t know where the story should go. At the time, I wanted Molly to conquer the monster because I desperately needed to conquer my own mental illnesses.
“What would be the benefits of having this monster captive?” my therapist asked me.
The Endless Hallway features a creature that has haunted me since I was a teenager. This vile thing, with disgusting claws, rows of teeth, and black, void-like eyes, has featured in my writings for two decades. As the years go by, its appearance gets worse and worse: a monstrous evolution that personifies my mental illnesses.
My senior year of high school, I went with my parents to spend the weekend at my grandparents’ house. They lived in a small town about 75 minutes away from us. On the drive down, I listened to music, daydreaming as I watched miles of hills and highway pass by. Suddenly it appeared to me: an emaciated human-like creature, completely bald with shiny, slimy skin, no nose, two gaping voids for eyes, mangled claws, and vicious teeth. I imagined the creature standing in front of me, opening its mouth to inhuman levels, and swallowing my head. I didn’t know if this was my depression consuming me or setting me free.
This image stuck with me, and I immediately wrote about it in the composition notebook I always carried with me. Over the next several months I wrote a story featuring this creature, but more in link with a vampire – think of a play on Nosferatu. In this iteration, the monster’s main features were rows of fangs and knotted, gnarly hands with claws, along with the bald head and void-like eyes. Later, I wrote a short story featuring the creature that was a meditation on how depression shapes a person’s growth from adolescence to adulthood. In both stories, the ending was more finite: in the first, the monster is burned to death; in the latter, it swallows the protagonist.
A decade on, I got married and had my daughter. Postpartum depression and anxiety hit me hard. Again, I imagined the creature looming over me, ready to strike. This time it was more disgusting and vicious: now its teeth dripped black ooze and its mangled, jagged claws were ready to take everything from me. As I rocked my daughter to sleep, I vowed I would not let it.
Instead, I wrote it all down. I owned the monster and made it do my bidding. On the page, it couldn’t hurt me. The depression could threaten us, it could lurk around every corner of the life I always wanted, but it would never touch us.
Yet, as I finished The Endless Hallway, I found the ending was more ambiguous. Age had taught me that the depression never really goes away. Instead, we would live with it, like a haunting; deal with it whenever it decided to show its monstrous face. There’s a comfort in that, a comfort in knowing that while we can’t always defeat our demons, we can always overcome them.
Even if we still check the baby monitor for claws creeping through the bars of the crib, and double-check the corners of the baby’s room for dark figures.
Molly has it all – a good job, a handsome husband, a beautiful new baby, and a supportive family. Her life is everything she once prayed it would be. But something sinister is lurking within the walls of her tiny townhouse. A strange voice comes from the darkness as Molly rocks her infant to sleep. Lights that were left on are suddenly turned off. Molly has nightmares in which her husband’s throat is slit. In the middle of the night, a thin, pale arm reaches over the rails of the crib and lunges for the baby with fierce, jagged claws. The voice in the darkness soon seems to be coming from inside Molly’s head.
Are the visions Molly has been haunted by a subconscious warning or something more vicious?
Mary Parker is a horror author and journalist from Southern Illinois. She has worked for examiner.com and horrornews.net. A collection of short stories, Predilection, was published in 2009. Her work can also be found in the anthologies “Vampires Aren’t Pretty” and “Slaughter House: The Serial Killer Edition, Vol. 2.” Her story “Sweet Nightmares” placed in the Top 100 of Wattpad’s Horror Contest sponsored by TNT. She is a proud contributor to, supporter of, and past ambassador of Women in Horror Month.
The 58th issue of The Sirens Call comes in at whopping 239 pages containing 166 pieces of dark fiction and horror in the form of short stories, flash fiction, micro fiction, and dark poetry with an optional sub-theme of summer horror! This issue also features a new addition -Mike Lera’s Corridor of Horror- which will be an on-going column spotlighting those in the film industry.
Our features this month include artist Jeanette Andromeda who has shared 11 pieces of her artwork along with her beautifully crafted tale,Alice and the Toy Maker; a spotlight feature for the charity anthology,Dancing in the Shadows: A tribute to Anne Rice, which focuses on the team behind the project; we’ve also been given the opportunity to showcase Rebecca Rowland as our featured author who discussesThe Question of Gender in Horror, and also…