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.
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…