My New Favorite Writer: “A Case Study in Natural Selection and How It Applies to Love” a Story by Eric J. Guignard (+ Links)

This is first-rate prose. I am enamoured of the style. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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A Case Study in Natural Selection and How It Applies to Love

Eric Guignard, 2018


Yesterday I saw Jamie Goodwin burst into flame.

He was just sitting on one of those cheap aluminum-back chairs we all have, eyes closed in the shade of Hester’s old RV, trying to get some relief from the heat, same as everyone else. I was checking the stock of coolers, seeing if any held even a bit of water left to siphon out, when Jamie let out a tiny gasp like he woke from a bad dream. If it was a bad dream he had, he woke to something worse, ’cause little glints of light popped and fizzed off him like the sparklers we used to wave around on Fourth of July. Smoke or steam or something else rose up, then Jamie’s eyes went cartoon-big and he turned into a fireball.

Jamie’s the fourth person to spontaneously combust this month. Two women burned last Wednesday, and old Tom Puddingpaw blazed the week prior. Before that, we averaged only one or two fireballs a month, but now it’s getting worse. And after Jamie burned, Ms. Crankshaw didn’t even cancel lessons like she normally did, as if coming to terms that folks fireballing was the new natural order of things.

“That’s another lesson in evolution. One day we’re apes, then we’re humans, now we’re fireballs.”

She didn’t really say that, but she might as well have.

At least Loud John and Rudy were there when Jamie burned, and they contained his cinders so it didn’t spread like when Quiet John caught flame. But I still saw the whole thing, and it still scared me, even if others pretend to somehow be getting used to it.

“I watched him die,” I tell my friends. “Jamie didn’t scream. I think he tried, since his mouth opened wide, but nothing came out except flames.”

“Why is this happening for no reason?” Ogre asks, though that question is rhetorical because he doesn’t expect an answer. His voice hitches and he overcompensates for it by yelling, “When’s it going to stop?”

That’s rhetorical too.

We’re not supposed to be outdoors because of the heat, but we’re wearing protection, and sometimes out in the desert is the only place we can talk without everyone else listening in.

“I told you we weren’t safe,” Liz says. “Ms. C.’s wrong or she’s lying to us. Anybody can fireball.”

“No one ever tells us the truth,” Tommy adds. “It’s stupid going to lessons if everyone shields us from what’s really happening. I mean, what’re we learning? Facts or make-believe?”

Me and Tommy and Liz and Ogre are shooting at sand lizards with a pair of slingshots. I oughta clarify we’d shoot at anything daring our range of rocks and marbles, but it was too hot for anything but lizards to come out under the sun.

“The adults don’t want us to know…” A red bandana covers half of Liz’s face, so her voice is muffled. “I think we’re all gonna die.”

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Dracul—The Prequel to Bram Stoker’s Dracula—Is Finally Here!

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My preordered copy of the book just arrived and with it came some interesting information I’d like to share with you! This is the prequel to Dracula, co-written by Bram Stoker’s (author of the 1890 novel Dracula) great-nephew and manager of his estate—Dacre Stoker!

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The Mysterious “Ghost Writings” at England’s Borley Rectory—An Investigation…

No Hand Was Visible: The Mysterious “Wall Writings” at Borley Rectory— An Investigation

Andrew Clarke, 2003

The wall-writings at England’s infamously haunted Borley Rectory have proven to be of enduring interest. Although they may not be unique, they are memorable, with the repeated calling of the name ‘Marianne’, their chilling pleas for ‘Rest’, exhortations for ‘Light’ the ‘Mass Prayers’, and childlike scribbling, redolent of a tortured soul desperate to communicate.

C253F663-8733-4C92-9E96-ECB7932F5A0DWho can fail to be stirred by the account of their arrival as remembered by a visitor, the professional medium, Guy L’Estrange?:

“Later, being entertained by the rector and his wife, he heard for the first time of mysterious forms, male and female, being seen inside and outside the house; of lights in unoccupied rooms; of articles appearing and being thrown; of fires breaking out; of mysterious whisperings and unexplained writings on walls and scraps of paper. Once, the rector told him, he was working alone in his study when he saw a pencil rise from the desk and scrawl words on the wall in front of him -no hand was visible!’

Guy L’Estrange, quoted in Borley Postscript by Peter Underwood, p.114

It is an image that we all kept when we first read the Harry Price books about Borley Rectory: the pencil rising from the desk and scrawling the words ‘Get light, mass, prayers.’

This account was introduced by the professional medium, Guy L’Estrange. Unfortunately Guy seems to have made it up. Lionel Foyster, the rector would never have said it. He was meticulous in his care for the truth and was always keen to point out that he never saw anything of a paranormal nature whilst at Borley Rectory. The story of the pencil rising from the desk does not appear in any other account.

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This and all other images: Borleyrectory.com.

The ‘paranormal’ writings first appeared in the spring of 1931 when the Foysters were living at the Rectory.

The diary of occurrences, written soon after the event, records the first manifestations of this strange phenomenon, and then, in instalments describes how it evolved:

“Another strange occurrence is that Marianne’s name was at one time continually being written on little odd pieces of paper in a rather shaky childish hand (Adelaide, needless to say, cannot write yet) That has stopped now as far as I know (March 23rd).”

Lionel Foyster Diary of Occurences, p.17

In Lionel’s final account which was written seven years later, some detail was added that gave this a much more ‘paranormal’ air:

‘MF sees paper in the air; it at once falls to the ground; discovered to huave some hardly decipherable writing on it. Next day, when we come up, it has disappeared.”

Lionel Foyster, Summary of experiences, p.4

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Ghost Stories: A Great Introduction to the Art—by Michael Newton, (Penguin Classics, 2010)

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It’s always a delight to discover scholarship on the ghost story, such as the following essay by Michael Newton. It is my favorite subject—ghosts in literature that is—hands down. I read them—new ones, old ones. I dread them (and dream them). I love both short stories and novella-length ones; novels, too, but real good ones are rare. I also like true stories of specters and spirits, haints and hauntings—they scare the bejeezus outta me, but they also fill me with a ferocious glee! I suppose it’s the idea that we may never know for sure—right?—whether they’re real or a figment of the global imagination. Either way, I love my ghost stories. I trust you do, too. So, here’s Newton’s Introduction from the Penguin Book of Ghost Stories, published in 2010. (I highly recommend every story in this collection. I recently finished Elizabeth Gaskell’s creeper “The Old Nurse’s Story.” It was superb.)

Leave a light on!

💡SW

Note: Any photographs or images that follow—along with accompanying captions—are additions of mine, and are not part of the Introduction as it originally appeared in The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories.  —Sanguine Woods

Introduction to The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories

Michael Newton, 2010

“The ghost is the most enduring figure in supernatural fiction. He is absolutely indestructible … He changes with the styles in fiction but he never goes out of fashion. He is the really permanent citizen of the earth, for mortals, at best, are but transients.”

Dr. Dorothy Scarborough*, The Supernatural in Modern English Fiction

GHOST, n. The outward and visible sign of an inward fear.

Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

“It is the haunted who haunt.”

Elizabeth Bowen, ‘The Happy Autumn Fields’

*****

“GHOST WORDS”

Above (click to enlarge): The famous “writing on the wall”** at England’s Borley Rectory is one of the most interesting manifestations of ghost writing ever encountered. The events and investigations at the rectory were among the very first cases of “ghost hunting” in the history of the modern world. Investigators, including Ed and Lorraine Warren, demonologists for the Church, believed the writings had come from the spirit of a young Catholic woman who wanted her body to be discovered and to be given a proper Christian burial. “Marianne” and her husband, Reverend Lionel Foyster, lived in the rectory during October 1930–her writing is in printed script and attempts to get clarification from the spirit as to the meaning of her scribbles, which include: “Marianne… please help get” and “Marianne light mass prayers”. Click here (and see other “Links” following this post) to learn more about The Borley Rectory Hauntings.

Someone is afraid. In a dark house or on an empty railway platform, at the foot of the staircase or there on a lonely beach. When critics discuss the ghost story, they often pay no more than lip-service to the intended impact of the tale itself. The critics’ words remove us from the place where the story’s words first took us. In the ghost story, through the representation of another’s fear, we become afraid. We take on the sensation of terror, the alert uneasiness that translates random sounds into intentions, a room’s chill into watchfulness, and leaves us with the anxious apprehension of an other’s presence. The stories fix images of profound uneasiness in our minds. These images remain and act afterwards, when the story is over, as paths to renewed anxiety. From the stories in this collection, memories rise up of Thrawn Janet’s crooked walk, like a rag doll that has been hanged; the bereaved mother desperately reaching for the bolt to the door in ‘The Monkey’s Paw’, with the visitor outside; or in M. R. James’s tale, on a sunless day, in a dream, a man running along the sands, breathless, worn out, pursued inexorably by a blind, muffled figure.

The ghost story aims at the retention of such pictures; it intends the production of such fears. It wants sympathetic shudders.

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“The Man Upstairs”—A Horror Story by Ray Bradbury, from Dark Carnival & The October Country…

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“The Halloween Tree”—art by Ray Bradbury.


The October Countrythat country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain…

—Ray Bradury

In celebration of fall, I am always drawn back to the fiction of the late Ray Bradbury—it’s a gross understatement (quantitatively and qualitatively) to say Bradbury taught a generation to write…he’s still teaching us to write. His style lightly macabre, flickered like a candle; it was also wondrously garish, carnivalesque. Ray Bradbury, like Truman Capote, Flannery O’Connor, and Shirley Jackson, was a stylist. And we don’t see many of those in any generation. I relish them. I envy them. I yearn for them, innocent—like that shiny red apple bobbing in the basin—its poison silent, and resting.


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The Man Upstairs

Ray Bradbury, 1947

Originally appeared in Bradbury’s 1947 collection Dark Carnival. It was collected eight years later in The October Country (1955). (See book cover images above.)

‘The red glass did things to Mr. Koberman. His face, his suit, his hands. The clothes seemed to melt away. Douglas almost believed, for one terrible moment, that he could see inside Mr. Koberman. And what he saw made him lean wildly against the small red pane, blinking.’

He remembered how carefully and expertly Grandmother would fondle the cold cut guts of the chicken and withdraw the marvels therein; the wet shining loops of meat-smelling intestine, the muscled lump of heart, the gizzard with the collection of seeds in it. How neatly and nicely Grandma would slit the chicken and push her fat little hand in to deprive it of its medals. These would be segregated, some in pans of water, others in paper to be thrown to the dog later, perhaps. And then the ritual of taxidermy, stuffing the bird with watered, seasoned bread, and performing surgery with a swift, bright needle, stitch after pulled-tight stitch.

This was one of the prime thrills of Douglas’s eleven-year-old life span.

Altogether, he counted twenty knives in the various squeaking drawers of the magic kitchen table from which Grandma, a kindly, gentle-faced, white-haired old witch, drew paraphernalia for her miracles.

Douglas was to be quiet. He could stand across the table from Grandmama, his freckled nose tucked over the edge, watching, but any loose boy-talk might interfere with the spell. It was a wonder when Grandma brandished silver shakers over the bird, supposedly sprinkling showers of mummy-dust and pulverized Indian bones, muttering mystical verses under her toothless breath.

“Grammy,” said Douglas at last, breaking the silence, “Am I like that inside?” He pointed at the chicken.

“Yes,” said Grandma. “A little more orderly and presentable, but just about the same. . . .”

“And more of it!” added Douglas, proud of his guts.

“Yes,” said Grandma. “More of it.”

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WICKED TALES: THE JOURNAL OF THE NEW ENGLAND HORROR WRITERS, VOL. 3 ed. by Goudsward, Keohane, & Price

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WICKED TALES: THE JOURNAL OF THE NEW ENGLAND HORROR WRITERS, VOLUME 3 edited by Scott T. Goudsward, Daniel G. Keohane, and David Price (2015 NEHW Press / 248 pp. / trade paperback & eBook)

With a fun cover like something off a classic issue of EC Comics, featuring a bunch of icky-squishy eldritch horrors pickaxing their way into a cartoon Lovecraft’s grave … yeah, okay, we’re off to a good start … and the introduction by Chet Williamson, “The Old Scribe and the Mysterious Codex,” does a nice job setting up a display case for the assortment of artistic oddities to follow.

‘Somebody’s Darling,’ by Kristin Dearborn, is first up and also one of my favorites, a historical behind-the-battlefield war story where death isn’t the worst fate in store for the wounded, and a young nurse is faced with a troubling dilemma.

Among my other top picks would have to be Sam Gafford’s ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ – no spoilers, but, it’s a clever and refreshing take on a familiar tale, from the point of view of a usually neglected character.

‘The Hiss of Escaping Air’ by Christopher Golden, is a satisfyingly twisted revenge yarn in which a movie mogul’s trophy wife goes after the most prized item in his collection, only to realize too late that she may have gone too far.

And speaking of satisfyingly twisted revenge yarns, Holly Newstein’s ‘Live With It’ is another winner, in which a chance meeting between former childhood friends leads to a grim reunion with an abusive parent.

Many people don’t read or appreciate poetry enough … I’m trying to get better about it myself, and therefore it’s always nice when I happen across a treat like Tricia J. Woolridge’s ‘The Crocodile Below.’ A poem about mean little kids and crocodiles in the sewer? Yes please!

Of course, I’m also a sucker for some good Viking stuff, so ‘Odd Grimsson, Called Half-Troll’ by John Goodrich was quick to catch my interest. But then, a good gripping saga of visions, curses, and man-vs.-monster will do that!

There are several more stories filling out the table of contents, and I enjoyed most of them. Definitely worth a look!

Source: http://thehorrorfictionreview.blogspot.com/2015/09/reviews-for-week-of-september-14-2015.html?m=1

My Current Read: Small Ghosts, a Horrifying Novella of a Serial Killer & the Ghosts of His Victims by Paul Lewis, 2017, Info+Links

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Cover art by Daniele Serra.

When his grandfather, a former policeman, is hospitalized after suffering a stroke, recently-widowed journalist Tom Maitland returns to his home town to support his mother, despite their strained relationship. Tom ends up staying at his grandfather’s (a former police officer) now-empty cottage, where he becomes intrigued by a disturbing murder case the old man had once investigated and failed to solve. The more Tom looks into the case, the more unsettling it all becomes, as events start to take a decidedly supernatural turn…

Blurbs by Two Authors I Highly Recommend!

“Small Ghosts is a compelling novella that tackles one of society’s greatest fears in a refreshing and original way. Lewis gives us a story that spans more than the bounds such a short form should allow, with characters that convince and intrigue and a plot that refuses to take you where you might expect. Engaging, entertaining, and expertly told.”

Ray Cluley, author (Ray Cluley’s Website)…Some Books by Ray Clulely:

“Small Ghosts is a dark surprise. A story of misgiven detection and dreadful revelations, elegantly crafted against a background of supernatural dread.”

Paul Meloy, author (Check Paul out on Wiki)…Some books by Paul Meloy:

A Short Review from the Graveyard…

Ex-journalist Tom Maitland is still trying to get his life in order after the unexpected loss of his beloved wife, when he learns that his grandfather is in hospital near death from a stroke. He has no love for the man, but agrees to meet his mother (the sick man’s daughter) at a café. She persuades him to check that his grandfather’s bungalow is secure. Once there he catches a glimpse of a boy who simply vanishes. But this is just the start of a bigger mystery. News clippings are discovered dating back to when his grandfather led the police investigation into the deaths of two young boys and a third who was still missing. Curiosity piqued, Tom’s journalistic instincts take over to the point it begins to take over his life…

This is an 108-page novelette written by Paul Lewis (comedy sketch writer and author of The Savage Knight) and published on good quality paper by Telos. The prose makes for comfortable reading, and the story avoids convoluted plot strands. Thankfully, it keeps to the point and concentrates on characterisation; namely, the protagonist and his mother. I would say that the witnesses and the all the answers he seeks fall comfortably into Maitland’s hands, without the requirement to venture very much out of the local area of his grandfather’s bungalow. Additionally, certain elements of the tale are somewhat predictable. However, I did get drawn in by the human element, and was only half right when predicting the ending.

It’s an enjoyable but regrettably short book, which may well cause people to balk at the £9.99 RRP. A nice saving grace is that my copy is one of a limited number of signed copies by the author.

(http://www.reviewgraveyard.com/00_revs/r2017/book/17-04-02_small-ghosts.html)

Get the novella, in collectible paperback format, from the publisher, here…

https://telos.co.uk/shop/horror-dark-fantasy-and-science-fiction/small-ghosts/

Get the ebook from Amazon, here…