“As a Guest at the Telekinetic Tea Party”—A Witch’s Poem by Stephanie M. Wytovich

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Mismatched outfits drenched in earl grey design,
the ladies stretch their legs,
their platform heels dusted with tea cakes
against a heralded cry for the haberdashery
as rogue buttons line the floor.

Move down! Move down!

They each float to new spots,
their honey-soaked spoons dripping nectar
on their plates,
such beehive gossip
against poison clouds and milk.

The clock strikes thirteen
inside strawberry hookah rings,
laughter and lullabies paint blueberry scones
on flying saucers,
their girlish whispers slathered in apricot jam,
sprinkled with pecans and preserves.

No room! No room!

They pin their hair back with shards of bone,
as soft curls frame their heart-shaped faces,
their fingernails tapping on both table and tea pot.

Uniformed in madness, they hold hands in sisterhood,
the women all a flutter on cushions stuffed
with soaked butterfly wings,
bodies rising, minds expanding,
their dresses swishing, dancing in the air.

Move down! No ROOM!

They crack their necks
remove their matcha-stained ribbons,
the scent of burning around them,
a boiling high-pitched hiss
amongst a table stained with tarot and tears.

They open their weeping eyes to blood,
sip the sacred tea as their heart beats slow,
each girl rising, never to stop,
forever a sleeping witch in the sky.

***

Image: Vintage divination teacup , ca.late 1800s (Pinterest).


9A1398FE-5A70-4D38-A8D1-81AF74A70C60Originally appeared in Behold! Oddities, Curiosities, and Undefinable Wonders, Edited by Doug Murano (Crystal Lake, 2017)

“The Screaming Skull”—A Vintage Ghost Story by F. Marion Crawford, 1908

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Art by Devin Francisco (deviantart.com).

The Screaming Skull

F. Marion Crawford, 1908


Below: “The Screaming Skull originally appeared in Volume 41 of Collier’s National Weekly Magazine—in two parts—in the July 11 and July 18, 1908 issues. (Click thumbnails to enlarge.)

Top-left: The 1911 book cover for F. Marion Crawford’s story collection Wandering Ghosts, which included “The Screaming Skull”; and top-right: Original story illustration for the 1911 edition (caption reads: “What? . . . It’s gone, man, the Skull is gone!!”); artist unknown. (Images: Wiki; Pinterest; Haithi Trust; Public Domain.)

I have often heard it scream. No, I am not nervous, I am not imaginative, and I have never believed in ghosts, unless that thing is one. Whatever it is, it hates me almost as much as it hated Luke Pratt, and it screams at me.

If I were you, I would never tell ugly stories about ingenious ways of killing people, for you never can tell but that someone at the table may be tired of his or her nearest and dearest. I have always blamed myself for Mrs Pratt’s death, and I suppose I was responsible for it in a way, though heaven knows I never wished her anything but long life and happiness. If I had not told that story she might be alive yet. That is why the thing screams at me, I fancy.

She was a good little woman, with a sweet temper, all things considered, and a nice gentle voice; but I remember hearing her shriek once when she thought her little boy was killed by a pistol that went off, though everyone was sure that it was not loaded.

It was the same scream; exactly the same, with a sort of rising quaver at the end; do you know what I mean? Unmistakable.

The truth is, I had not realized that the doctor and his wife were not on good terms. They used to bicker a bit now and then when I was here, and I often noticed that little Mrs Pratt got very red and bit her lip hard to keep her temper, while Luke grew pale and said the most offensive things. He was that sort when he was in the nursery, I remember and afterward at school. He was my cousin, you know; that is how I came by this house; after he died, and his boy Charley was killed in South Africa, there were no relations left. Yes, it’s a pretty little property, just the sort of thing for an old sailor like me who has taken to gardening.

One always remembers one’s mistakes much more vividly than one’s cleverest things, doesn’t one? I’ve often noticed it. I was dining with the Pratts one night, when I told them the story that afterwards made so much difference. It was a wet night in November, and the sea was moaning. Hush! – if you don’t speak you will hear it now…

Do you hear the tide? Gloomy sound, isn’t it? Sometimes, about this time of year – hallo! – there it is! Don’t be frightened, man – it won’t eat you – it’s only a noise, after all! But I’m glad you’ve heard it, because there are always people who think it’s the wind, or my imagination, or something. You won’t hear it again tonight, I fancy, for it doesn’t often come more than once. Yes – that’s right. Put another stick on the fire, and a little more stuff into that weak mixture you’re so fond of. Do you remember old Blauklot the carpenter, on that German ship that picked us up when the Clontarf went to the bottom? We were hove to in a howling gale one night, as snug as you please, with no land within five hundred miles, and the ship coming up and falling off as regularly as clockwork – ‘Biddy te boor beebles ashore tis night, poys!’ old Blauklot sang out, as he went off to his quarters with the sail-maker. I often think of that, now that I’m ashore for good and all.

Yes, it was on a night like this, when I was at home for a spell, waiting to take the Olympia out on her first trip – it was on the next voyage that she broke the record, you remember – but that dates it. Ninety-two was the year, early in November.

The weather was dirty, Pratt was out of temper, and the dinner was bad, very bad indeed, which didn’t improve matters, and cold, which made it worse. The poor little lady was very unhappy about it, and insisted on making a Welsh rarebit on the table to counteract the raw turnips and the half-boiled mutton. Pratt must have had a hard day. Perhaps he had lost a patient. At all events, he was in a nasty temper.

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“The First Order of Whaleyville’s Divine Basilisk Handlers”—A Horror Story by Eric J. Guignard

I don’t have too many favorite writers in horror and the like…but Eric J. Guignard is one of them. He is NOT a writer to miss! Link to this book is below.

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Cover art by Christine M. Scott.

The First Order of Whaleyville’s Divine Basilisk Handlers

Eric J. Guignard, 2018

Originally appeared in The Fiend in the Furrows, An Anthology of Folk Horror, ed. by David T. Neal & Christine M. Scott, Nosetouch Press, 2018.

I never heard of basilisks ‘til the night of Murrell’s barn dance, but that was the night I met Rosalie, so the basilisks sorta took a back seat in my thoughts. I think it was Ronny Loom who told me, though his brother, Carter, was there too, and they’re one ’n the same, being just a year apart and closer than spittin’ twins.

“Poppa told me basilisks are crossing the Nolichucky River,” Ronny said. “Heard Lilac and some men from Kingsport bagged half a dozen already, but more keep showing up. Lilac says they’re worth more’n cougar pelts.”

“That old trapper’s still around?” I asked, more interested in hearing ’bout him than gabbing on new mountain game. Legend was, Lilac Zollinger had once been engaged to my great-granny Lizbeth, but Great-Grandpa Micajah dueled him for her hand and won, leaving Lilac with a bullet in the shoulder.

He healed, except for his pride, which supposing got wounded the most. “Heard Lilac caught the scythe two summers ago by way of momma grizzly.”

“He survived that,” Carter said. “Thought everyone knew.”

Me and the Looms passed under the banner for Murrell’s dance and into his barn. Its double red doors were shuttered open and breathing yellow light like a hell cat, silhouetting straw-hatted farmers and their bonnet-hatted wives.

“Harv Ridout says Lilac won’t sleep under a roof, but rather beds down amongst the trees each night so he won’t soften up like us townies,” Ronny said.

Carter added, “Harv Ridout says Lilac punched a wolf that was fightin’ him over a cottontail.”

I rolled my eyes. “Harv Ridout’s got less sense—”

The sudden scream of fiddle severed my words, then the clang of guitar followed, and soon a gaggle of folks lined the varnished floor kickin’ up their legs like a train of asses. I never cared much for dancing and don’t know what others see in it. It’s not like kissin’ or anything, not even a little, and I should know ‘cause I done both. Dancing, you’re not even allowed to touch girls ‘cept on their hands, or Pastor Wright’ll whip your bottom scorched as Hell’s eternal fury for such a sin.

That’s when a girl I never seen before swung from the dance line, twirling delicate as a marigold bloom. Right away, my insides turned light and fizzy, like if ever I thought to float on moonlit mist, now would be the moment. She was tall and skinny, like me, but her hair went dark, and her eyes shone like copper pennies set in fire ‘til they glowed and sizzled. She wore a dress pretty as first snow, and it clung to her in the middle and billowed out everywhere else as she moved.

Truth was, I never felt that way looking at a girl before, not even when kissing Aimee Greenwood last Harvest Day. I only kissed Aimee ‘cause she started it, but I liked it too, though how it felt didn’t compare a blue belle to how seeing this new girl weave and bow to each man in line did. Suddenly I felt dancing would be the greatest thing in the world, especially if with her.

“New girl in town,” Ronny and Carter said together. “Heard her name is Rosalie Jacobs.”

“Rosalie,” I repeated, and I wondered where she came from. In Whaleyville, everyone knew everyone—even new folks—but she was a puzzler.

Murrell’s barn was stuffy hot that night, and the back of my neck stuck to the shirt collar with sweat. I ran a checkered sleeve across my forehead and it came away damp and grimy, though I still felt my best in over two years, since that terrible day at the revival.

“I’m gonna ask her to dance,” I vowed. But no sooner had the words been spoke did that vow fall to bitter ash when I saw Rosalie link arms with Luke Holder.

Ronny and Carter shook their heads somber as grave diggers. Luke Holder was older’n us, sized the three of us together, and meaner than a pecker full of sin. It was the cruel joke of the county that he was good looking too, with a big, perfect smile that made gals do funny things, and with eyes blue as winter quartz: cold and hard and sharp enough to cut, should you fall on ‘em the wrong way.

“Hellfire,” I muttered.

Click here to read the remainder of this great story and support this Anthology by picking up a copy…very affordable and worth it…

Century Illustrated Magazine, 1892

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From Una and the Red Cross Knight & Other Tales from Spenser’s Faery Queene, 1905

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