Hunter of the Dead by Stephen Kozeniewski #HorrorOctober2016 #BookReview

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Just as you thought Horror October was done and dusted…no it really is. But here’s a review I didn’t get to publish in time. Some may say I saved the best til last…

a5Title: Hunter of the Dead
Author: Stephen Kozeniewski
Series: N/A
Format: ePub, 314 pages
Publication Details:  August 15th 2016 by Sinister Grin Press
Genre(s): Horror
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads // Amazon

 

Someone has begun targeting vampires.

Vampire leaders of the thirteen Houses attribute the string of recent losses to over-zealous vampire hunters. Only Cicatrice, the most ancient and powerful vampire in the world, suspects that the semi-legendary Hunter of the Dead may be the real culprit.

Carter Price, a vampire hunter who despises the way his profession is becoming centralized and corporatized, begins to suspect the Hunter of the Dead is back, too – and no longer distinguishing between vampires and mortals. Against his better judgment, Price agrees to work with Cicatrice.

The uneasy allies attempt to uncover the truth about the Hunter, while a vampire civil war brews in the background. But perhaps most difficult of all, they must contend with their new apprentices, who seem to be falling in love with each other against every rule of man and monster…

Review

Hunter of the Dead is one epic vampire novel. If you’re looking for sparkly, over-possessive pretty boy vampires then you should probably just move along. But if you’re looking for a vamped-up Game of Thrones with The Red Wedding-level of bloodshed then you’ve come to the right place.

Hunter of the Dead has a large cast of characters and an intricately woven plot built upon a well thought-out mythos. There are warring vampire houses, each with their own version of vampire royalty, and human vampire hunters called Inquisitors. But the hunter himself is a whole other entity. A boogeyman. A thing of legends that no one quite believes. Until seemingly indestructible immortals start being…well, destroyed.

Caught up in the middle of this are two unlikely heroes, Carter and Nico. Gas station attendees turned vampire hunter and apprentice, the dynamic duo banter their way through the brewing war and attempt to find out the truth behind the one thing that both vampires and Inquisitors are equally as afraid of – The Hunter of the Dead.

This book had everything I could want in a vampire story. Blood, guts, bants and even a splash of romance in there too. The vampires themselves were diabolical yet alluring, and the plot was paced well despite its scope of epic proportions.

I did have some issues getting into the story to begin with though. The mixture of a vast array of characters and a jumping timeline would usually have me tearing my hair out, but after a chapter or two it really seemed to work. It certainly gave the book more mystery and depth.

But the one thing I did find frustrating was that a few of the characters were called by two or three different names – first name, surname and even a nickname –  so until I got to know the characters better it was really hard to understand who was who sometimes.

And while we’re talking about names, I spotted a few familiar ones in there. Whatever you do, don’t befriend Kozeniewski or he’ll steal your name for a character only to rip out their (YOUR) heart or make you live out the rest of your days with only half a face. Fellow horror writers beware!

Overall, this is not your average vampire novel. It’s not really your average anything. But whatever it is, it’s all wrapped up in Kozeniewski’s trademark tongue-in-cheek horror bow that I’ve come to know and love.

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Hunter of the Dead is available now in both paperback & digital versions.

Flash Fiction Battle: I now crown you… #HorrorOctober

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Welcome back to Horror October 2016’s main event: The Flash Fiction Battle

 

At the beginning of the month, you voted in your masses for your favourite horror story prompt, and the winner was ‘3 AM. Full Dark. One Sound’

Four wonderfully creepy stories were entered by the participating writers and over 1300 votes were cast for your favourite. 

And, finally the results are in…

In 4th place: Wake Up Mommy by A. Giacomi (102 votes)

In 3rd place: The Quiet Life by Stephen Kozeniewski (170 votes)

In 2nd place: The Secret of the Basement by Lily Luchesi (347 votes)

And in 1st place….

 

Come in Here by Stevie Kopas (714 votes)

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A huge thank you to all four writers, and congratulations to Stevie! Thanks also go to everyone who voted and to Cleo, Lynn and Drew for helping me to promote – 1300 votes is amazing!

Here is your winning story again…Happy Halloween!

Come in Here

By Stevie Kopas

Sorry I’m late,” Jill whispered as she crept through the front door, locking it behind her.

It was just past Midnight and she hoped the baby was already sleeping and that her sister wasn’t angry with her for not arriving home on time, but Maddie was curled up on the couch with a book as usual and smiled when Jill entered the living room.

How was work?” Maddie asked, marking her page with a bookmark and hopping to her feet, stretching.

Awful,” Jill sighed. “If I could actually leave when I was scheduled for once I might come home with a better answer. How’s my little bear?”

Oh he’s great, been sleeping like a baby.” Maddie made a face and laughed. “Well, I mean, he is a baby, but you get what I mean.”

Jill chuckled and walked her sister to the door, giving her a big hug before sending her on her way. She was halfway up the stairs to check on baby Louis when her phone blared from her purse in the living room.

Shit,” she cursed under her breath, praying that the noise didn’t wake the baby.

She fished the iPhone from her bag and quickly silenced it, looking at the screen.

Unknown Caller.

She frowned, but answered anyway, curious as to who could be calling at this hour.

Hello?”

She was greeted by loud static on the other end and repeated her greeting only to receive child-like laughter in response.

Maddie? Is that you?” She asked, but the call immediately disconnected.

Shrugging, Jill put the phone on vibrate and slipped it into her pocket. She started back for the stairs when it began to buzz.

Seriously?” She pulled it from her pocket and rolled her eyes when she saw that it was an unknown caller again. She swiped and answered, trekking up the stairs. “Maddie, this isn’t funny.” The same static greeted her followed by a child giggling; she rolled her eyes. “I hope your parents find out what you’re doing and ground you!”

She hung up and stuffed the phone into her pocket once more before heading for baby Louis’ room. Her little bundle of joy was snuggled up and sound asleep. She smiled and leaned into the crib, gently touching his tiny hand.

Good night, my angel. Mommy loves you.” Jill whispered.

She checked that the baby monitor was on and working before heading for her bedroom.

She changed into some sweatpants and before she could even get her oversized t-shirt over her head, her iPhone buzzed in her jeans on the floor. She let out an exasperated sigh and answered without even looking at who was calling.

Listen up, you little shit—“ Jill started.

Come back in here and play with me.” The little girl on the other end said.

What?” A slight chill ran down Jill’s spine.

The little girl giggled. “I want to play. Come back.”

She rolled her eyes and scolded herself for letting it freak her out. “Go to bed, brat. I’m done playing for the night.”

She hung up and shut the phone completely off, she’d have to set the alarm on the clock for once.

***

Jill rolled over and squinted at the clock: 2:57. She groaned and sat up, she could have sworn she shut the phone off before she went to bed. As her eyes adjusted, she could see the screen read Unknown Caller. Jill tried to decline the call but her screen wouldn’t swipe. She hit the power button on the side, but again, the phone wouldn’t respond. In a huff, she threw the covers off and went with her only option: answering it.

What!” She yelled into the phone.

Come in here,” the little girl whispered through heavy static. “Come in here and play with me.”

For the last time… Go. To. Bed.”

Furious, Jill made sure the phone was off. She got up and put the iPhone in a pile of clothes in the closet just in case there was something wrong with it and the little brat kept prank calling her. Just as she was getting back into bed, Jill froze; there was static coming from the baby monitor.

She stared at it for a moment, straining her ears for more sound, but there was nothing. She thought about checking on Louis, but he wasn’t crying and she desperately needed the sleep. Settling back into bed, she had just closed her eyes when the static came through the monitor again, this time, child’s laughter followed. Her eyes shot open and her skin broke out in goose bumps. She glanced at the clock before jumping out of bed: 3:00.

With the baby monitor in hand, she crept toward her bedroom door and again she heard the laughter. There was no denying it this time, it was the same laugh she’d heard on the phone.

Come in here and play with me,” the little girl said.

Jill panicked and the baby monitor fell from her hands, the static screeching from it, louder now. She sprinted from her bedroom and made a beeline for Louis’ door. She charged through and turned on the light, expecting to find someone trying to hurt her baby, but the room was empty, and Louis remained fast asleep in his crib. She checked on her son, making sure he was okay, her heartrate slowly returning to normal. She cursed herself for being so paranoid, she figured whoever had been calling her had somehow hacked into the baby monitor. She would go to the police tomorrow.

As Jill turned to leave the room, the door suddenly slammed shut and her hands flew up to her mouth. She stifled a scream as she read what was written in blood on the opposite wall just before the lights in the room went out:

I knew I could get you back in here.

Stevie can be found here: http://www.someonereadthis.com/ // @ApacoTaco 

Flash Fiction Battle: Last Chance to Vote! #HorrorOctober

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A friendly reminder…Voting for the Flash Fiction Battle ends tomorrow!

 

Votes will stop being counted at 20:00 GMT tomorrow (Friday 28th). So, if your favourite short horror story isn’t winning you’d better pull your finger out (yes you can vote more than once), but with over 1200 votes cast already…can you change the fate of the participating writers? Only time will tell. 

The winner will be announced on Saturday 29th at 09:00 (GMT)

Here’s the poll again for you last minute voters!

Flash Fiction Battle: Let the Voting Commence! #HorrorOctober #VoteNow

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Welcome to to Horror October 2016’s main event: The Flash Fiction Battle

 

At the beginning of the month, you voted in your masses for your favourite horror story prompt, and the winner was ‘3 AM. Full Dark. One Sound’. The participating writers rose to the challenge with aplomb and now it’s time for you to vote for your favourite!

Voting closes on the 28th October

Here’s the stories again, all in the same place so you can agonise over your winner. I’m torn between two but I’m not letting on which two! Will it be a blood-curdling basement, a creepy-ass child, spine-tingling survival, or a very unpleasant pregnancy?? YOU DECIDE!

Entry #1: The Secret Of The Basement

By Lily Luchesi

When I was a kid, I hated my house’s basement. No matter how many times my father said I was being ridiculous, my mother said I was getting too old for such childishness, and my older brother called me an assortment of cruel names, I never ever went down there. I always said it would take a life or death situation to get me to go down there of my own accord.

Yes, it was a stupid thing for an adult with a high-class scholarship to one of the best schools in the US to think that the boogeyman was living in their basement, but there you have it. Some childhood fears stick with you forever.

I only returned to the house because my mother left it to me in her will, with very specific instructions that I had to stay there until it sold. With a few expletives in my mind, I did my very best to negotiate with her lawyer. I was pre-law, I knew the drill, and I knew there were always loopholes in every contract, even a will.

Not this time. If I didn’t do as she asked, it would go to the state. When I asked why the house wouldn’t go to my brother, the lawyer replied that he had refused it: he’d claimed a vow of poverty and couldn’t accept the house or the land. Sanctimonious bastard.

I sold it, losing out on a hundred grand. That’s how badly I didn’t want it. However, I still had to stay there and take care of everything inside. I figured I’d hold an estate sale and whatever didn’t sell, I’d toss.

Being back home brought back unpleasant memories of my workaholic dad, my alcoholic mom, and my abusive brother. I hated it.

It took me over a week to price everything–most of which was junk–and then I realized, I couldn’t give the city this house without seeing what was in the basement. What if there was something combustible down there? Or valuable?

My fear of the place was still there, buried deep down but there nonetheless. I felt like an imbecile. I went three times all day today, trying to open the doors and get it over with. Each time shaking limbs and a pained stomach stopped me.

I spent the rest of the day and evening berating myself as I watched the sky darken and the usual autumnal thunderstorm roll in, drinking what was left of my mom’s liquor cabinet. I passed out on the living room sofa, only to be woken by a loud crash of thunder. I flew off the couch, frightened, as the power flickered a few times and then went out just in time for me to see the clock read 3AM. I let my cell illuminate the room, not that it did a great job. Looking out the back doors, I saw that the lightning hit a tree in the neighbor’s yard that had fallen partly into my yard.

Sighing, I threw on my hoodie and went outside to be sure there was no damage to the house. Rounding the side, I was relieved when all I saw was a branch sticking into the doors to the basement. Shielding my eyes from the driving rain, I removed the branch, which came apart with a wet crack, taking with it the old, rusted padlock on the doors.

Despite the fear in my gut and the hangover pounding in my head, I figured the Hell with it and threw open the doors, smelling the wet, moldy stench all places like that have after being closed up for years. And there was something else, something cinnamony.

I began my descent, cell phone before me to cast some kind of light into the inky darkness that seemed to be seeping into my bones just like the cold rain was. The stench got worse, a thick wet smell that made me want to gag.

As I went further down, the doors slammed shut behind me and I jumped. Damn wind. Now it was not only pitch dark except for a foot of smartphone light, it was silent like the grave and I shivered.

Take a look around and get the Hell out, I thought as I finished my descent, breathing through my mouth. I fumbled my cell, trying to get the light to stay steady in my trembling hand. Shouldn’t I at least be able to hear the storm?

The silence and darkness combined was too much. I just wanted out. Finally I got my hand to steady and waved my phone from side to side to get a panorama. What I saw made me collapse on the steps behind me.

Corpses. At least a dozen. Men, women, and children, all in various stages of decay, many so old they were mummified, creating that cinnamon stench. Gaping, rotted mouths seemed to smile at me, and empty, rotted eye sockets stared at me, the intruder in the domain of the dead. Flesh was sloughing off the bones of the most recent ones, and I saw a family of maggots in one man’s eyehole.

I wondered how they all got here, many of them were so old they had to have died in the twenties at least. Fear holding me prisoner, I finally had the sense to turn around and scramble up the steps, only to slip on the rainwater.

I felt backwards and barely felt my leg break. Too much adrenaline in my veins. Grabbing my phone, I checked for a signal to dial 911. Nothing. The storm had hit the cell towers.

I tried calling 911 twenty minutes ago, and I’ve been writing this ever since in my Notes app. I’m never getting out of here, but maybe one day they’ll find my body with the others. Why do I say I’m never getting out? Because the heavy silence was broken by one thing just now: the subtle, papery sound of a body shifting

Entry #2: Come in Here

By Stevie Kopas

Sorry I’m late,” Jill whispered as she crept through the front door, locking it behind her.

It was just past Midnight and she hoped the baby was already sleeping and that her sister wasn’t angry with her for not arriving home on time, but Maddie was curled up on the couch with a book as usual and smiled when Jill entered the living room.

How was work?” Maddie asked, marking her page with a bookmark and hopping to her feet, stretching.

Awful,” Jill sighed. “If I could actually leave when I was scheduled for once I might come home with a better answer. How’s my little bear?”

Oh he’s great, been sleeping like a baby.” Maddie made a face and laughed. “Well, I mean, he is a baby, but you get what I mean.”

Jill chuckled and walked her sister to the door, giving her a big hug before sending her on her way. She was halfway up the stairs to check on baby Louis when her phone blared from her purse in the living room.

Shit,” she cursed under her breath, praying that the noise didn’t wake the baby.

She fished the iPhone from her bag and quickly silenced it, looking at the screen.

Unknown Caller.

She frowned, but answered anyway, curious as to who could be calling at this hour.

Hello?”

She was greeted by loud static on the other end and repeated her greeting only to receive child-like laughter in response.

Maddie? Is that you?” She asked, but the call immediately disconnected.

Shrugging, Jill put the phone on vibrate and slipped it into her pocket. She started back for the stairs when it began to buzz.

Seriously?” She pulled it from her pocket and rolled her eyes when she saw that it was an unknown caller again. She swiped and answered, trekking up the stairs. “Maddie, this isn’t funny.” The same static greeted her followed by a child giggling; she rolled her eyes. “I hope your parents find out what you’re doing and ground you!”

She hung up and stuffed the phone into her pocket once more before heading for baby Louis’ room. Her little bundle of joy was snuggled up and sound asleep. She smiled and leaned into the crib, gently touching his tiny hand.

Good night, my angel. Mommy loves you.” Jill whispered.

She checked that the baby monitor was on and working before heading for her bedroom.

She changed into some sweatpants and before she could even get her oversized t-shirt over her head, her iPhone buzzed in her jeans on the floor. She let out an exasperated sigh and answered without even looking at who was calling.

Listen up, you little shit—“ Jill started.

Come back in here and play with me.” The little girl on the other end said.

What?” A slight chill ran down Jill’s spine.

The little girl giggled. “I want to play. Come back.”

She rolled her eyes and scolded herself for letting it freak her out. “Go to bed, brat. I’m done playing for the night.”

She hung up and shut the phone completely off, she’d have to set the alarm on the clock for once.

***

Jill rolled over and squinted at the clock: 2:57. She groaned and sat up, she could have sworn she shut the phone off before she went to bed. As her eyes adjusted, she could see the screen read Unknown Caller. Jill tried to decline the call but her screen wouldn’t swipe. She hit the power button on the side, but again, the phone wouldn’t respond. In a huff, she threw the covers off and went with her only option: answering it.

What!” She yelled into the phone.

Come in here,” the little girl whispered through heavy static. “Come in here and play with me.”

For the last time… Go. To. Bed.”

Furious, Jill made sure the phone was off. She got up and put the iPhone in a pile of clothes in the closet just in case there was something wrong with it and the little brat kept prank calling her. Just as she was getting back into bed, Jill froze; there was static coming from the baby monitor.

She stared at it for a moment, straining her ears for more sound, but there was nothing. She thought about checking on Louis, but he wasn’t crying and she desperately needed the sleep. Settling back into bed, she had just closed her eyes when the static came through the monitor again, this time, child’s laughter followed. Her eyes shot open and her skin broke out in goose bumps. She glanced at the clock before jumping out of bed: 3:00.

With the baby monitor in hand, she crept toward her bedroom door and again she heard the laughter. There was no denying it this time, it was the same laugh she’d heard on the phone.

Come in here and play with me,” the little girl said.

Jill panicked and the baby monitor fell from her hands, the static screeching from it, louder now. She sprinted from her bedroom and made a beeline for Louis’ door. She charged through and turned on the light, expecting to find someone trying to hurt her baby, but the room was empty, and Louis remained fast asleep in his crib. She checked on her son, making sure he was okay, her heartrate slowly returning to normal. She cursed herself for being so paranoid, she figured whoever had been calling her had somehow hacked into the baby monitor. She would go to the police tomorrow.

As Jill turned to leave the room, the door suddenly slammed shut and her hands flew up to her mouth. She stifled a scream as she read what was written in blood on the opposite wall just before the lights in the room went out:

I knew I could get you back in here.

 

Entry #3: The Quiet Life

By Stephen Kozeniewski

My tongue sits in a Mason jar on my nightstand, suspended in denatured alcohol.

Do you think that makes me morbid? Grotesque?

Perhaps. I prefer to think it makes me sentimental. After all, he was an unwilling victim of circumstance.

I couldn’t keep him. The human voice is irresistible to them. Like a pheromone. It draws them. The creatures are strangely reliant on the sense of hearing, even to the detriment of all other senses. I’ve often seen them prowling the grounds at night. But they never try to come in the house. To them, the door may as well be an impassable mountain.

When they hear human speech, though, my God, it’s like they’re miniature tornadoes, destroying everything in their paths. It happened to the Martins across the street. This was after we’d all learned to stay silent. But the stillness must have been driving Ted Martin out of his wits. He made the mistake of playing a song.

It was Elvis singing, not Ted, but that didn’t matter to the invaders. As soon as the King’s voice was on the wind the creatures couldn’t flood the Martin household fast enough. They burrowed through brick, wood, and glass with equal vigor, a chitinous tide rolling in.

So we must do without music or television. Even a single errant noise, crying out after hitting your hand with a hammer and they’ll come.

Watching what happened to the Martins was what finally made me walk downstairs, take the scissors from the sewing nook, and hack out my own tongue. It seemed to take hours, longer because I had to suppress my cries of pain. Just scissoring and scissoring away, choking back the blood as it filled my mouth.

After a while I saw Grace had been watching me. She was sitting in the corner, her head hung like a schoolgirl’s. She’s a large girl. Obese, I guess you might say. I don’t find her especially attractive, but we’ve been sleeping together quite a bit. Mostly just to stave off the boredom.

I’d never even seen her before when this all began nine months ago. That was back when there was still panic in the streets and no one understood what drove the creatures. She turned up on my doorstep seeking refuge. Not really knowing what else to do I’d let her in. She’d been the one to suggest that we try not talking.

She has a terrible stutter and rarely opens her mouth out of fear of embarrassment. She had taken note that her habitual silence had made her all but invisible to the creatures. She’d shared the secret with me full days before the news had suggested it. But by then, of course, most everyone was already gone and of those who remained few of us had the discipline to sit silently in our homes for the rest of our lives.

Then the Martins died, and I cut my tongue out. I was standing there with the bloody scissors and Grace just stuck her out her own tongue and closed her eyes, waiting for me to do it for her. Even with her stutter she didn’t trust herself never to utter another sound.

So now we sit. Day after day. Occasionally reading. Often fucking. We’ve taken to exercising a bit, too, not unlike prison lifting to pass the time. We have conversations on the whiteboard, but neither of us have very much to say. Christ said the meek would inherit the earth. I doubt this is what He meant.

It’s late now. Nearly three o’clock in the morning. With nothing to occupy my mind during the day I’ve become a habitual insomniac. The power went out ages ago and there’s no moon or stars out tonight. I can hear them, chittering away at each other in their own strange language.

In the darkness I’m haunted by memories.

Grace is thumping around in the next room. I wonder if she’s exercising. Perhaps she’s just masturbating. Either way I consider joining her. At least it would take my mind off those damned things.

They start out like black insects, about the size of a fist. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are extraterrestrial, but sometimes I think it’s more likely they originated right here on Earth. How could space bugs have evolved to love the human voice so much?

When they hear you they swarm into your mouth. You can crush one, maybe five. But you can’t escape all of them. The “winner” devours your tongue. I suppose when they finally get me they’ll be denied that little treat, at least. Then it latches onto the stem, turning itself into a nasty little prosthetic tongue.

They must tug on your nerves or else secrete some kind of venom, because once one’s gotten in your mouth you stop acting normal. You just walk around, arms and legs wildly flailing, as though the little bugs are student drivers attempting to drive your body.

I’ve looked into the eyes of people possessed like that. You can see them suffering, unable to control their own bodies or even close their mouths over the invader. A fully conscious meat puppet. If I had more guts I would try to kill them when I see them wandering around the streets below. But I don’t want to draw any attention.

A noise pierces the darkness. How is that possible? Grace is fat enough to hide it, but didn’t she know? Damn. I should have used protection. My newborn baby is crying in the next room.

 

Wake Up Mommy

By A. Giacomi

The sensation strikes me at nearly the same time every night. Midnight, the witching hour, where pregnant women around the world rise to take a piss. Begrudgingly, I slowly glide out of bed and drag my sore feet into the bathroom. Sleep would become impossible once the baby arrived, but sleep was already escaping me in my eighth month of pregnancy, a taste of things to come I suppose.

Returning to bed, I close my eyes and try to summon any god that would hear my prayer for a restful, comfortable sleep for the remainder of the night, as I couldn’t remember what great sleep felt like.

A moment goes by, or at least it feels that way.

A tapping sound wakes me from my sleep. The sound is muffled, but difficult to ignore, it grows a little louder when I sit up in bed, but not nearly loud enough to wake my husband, who is blissfully sleeping beneath the bed sheets, unaffected and quite still.

Glancing towards the only light in the darkness, our alarm clock, I see that it reads 3 am, an ungodly hour that I hadn’t seen since my party years in my early twenties. The sound grows louder, a thumping, drumming sound that I can’t quite describe.

It wasn’t coming from the walls, but it was close…very close.

Still groggy, with eyes half open, I try to shake my husband awake so that he may investigate the sound further, but when I pull back the bed sheets I find his side empty but still warm.

Shouting out to him, I await his reply…

The house remains silent.

Beginning to panic I try to get out of bed, but a sharp pain in my back prevents me from moving any further. Stuck, I call out again, but there is still no answer. My mind races as the thumping sound returns, this time louder and in tempo with my rapid pulse.

As the thumping grows louder and louder still, my pain begins to accelerate with the sound. It was too soon to be in labour, but I was beginning to think the baby might have other plans for its arrival. Gritting my teeth and bracing for pain, I sit up and pull the bed sheets away to expose my belly.

To my horror, when I look down at the round mound attached to me, I find tiny fists are pounding against it from the inside. The thumping was coming from inside of me. This is why it had been muffled, this is why I couldn’t detect its source.

Who would imagine such a sound coming from within?

The pounding of tiny fists is drowned out by my screams, which now fill the house and possibly the neighbourhood.

With fear coursing through my veins, my heart nearly bursting, I forget about the pain in my spine and bolt out of bed and down the stairs in my nightgown. My plan was to seek help from the neighbours next door, they were my best bet until I could locate my missing husband.

Reaching the front door, nearly out of breath, I find a dark figure standing in the doorway. It takes a moment to realize who it is.

Baby?” I say in a whisper.

As he turns around slowly, I see that it is my husband, but something in his eyes is off. He seemed hollow, like his mind held no memory of me. Waving my hands in front of him, he barely flinches, but when I try to move him out of the way and exit the house, he springs to life and holds me back.

Stay here.” He says in an eerie whisper.

I’m having the baby, I think, I have to go to the hospital.” I shout with all composure leaving my body.

He refuses to budge and let me pass.

I scream for help, but the thumping returns and pain surges through my entire body, silencing me. My legs get weak and I’m forced to lay on the cold ceramic floor of the hallway. It feels as though I’m about to tear in half. My husband stares down at me without expression as I writhe in pain.

Looking at my belly once more as my vision begins to blur, I see the tiny fists pounding with so much force that it didn’t seem human, there was something other living inside me, and it clearly didn’t need me anymore, it was about to make its exit.

 

Choose wisely, friends 😉 The winner will be announced on Saturday 29th October!

Flash Fiction Battle: The Quiet Life by Stephen Kozeniewski #HorrorOctober

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Welcome to to Horror October 2016’s main event: The Flash Fiction Battle

At the beginning of the month, you voted in your masses for your favourite horror story prompt, and the time has come for the participating horror writers (see above) to battle it out for the title of King or Queen of Horror (October)!  The winning prompt was ‘3 AM. Full Dark. One Sound’, and the only rule was a 1000 word limit.

You will be able to vote for your favourite story, but not until all the entries have been published (by the end of this week). 

The Quiet Life

Author: Stephen Kozeniewski
Word Count: 926
Blurb:  What could possess a couple to cut out their own tongues?

tongues
My tongue sits in a Mason jar on my nightstand, suspended in denatured alcohol.

Do you think that makes me morbid? Grotesque?

Perhaps. I prefer to think it makes me sentimental. After all, he was an unwilling victim of circumstance.

I couldn’t keep him. The human voice is irresistible to them. Like a pheromone. It draws them. The creatures are strangely reliant on the sense of hearing, even to the detriment of all other senses. I’ve often seen them prowling the grounds at night. But they never try to come in the house. To them, the door may as well be an impassable mountain.

When they hear human speech, though, my God, it’s like they’re miniature tornadoes, destroying everything in their paths. It happened to the Martins across the street. This was after we’d all learned to stay silent. But the stillness must have been driving Ted Martin out of his wits. He made the mistake of playing a song.

It was Elvis singing, not Ted, but that didn’t matter to the invaders. As soon as the King’s voice was on the wind the creatures couldn’t flood the Martin household fast enough. They burrowed through brick, wood, and glass with equal vigor, a chitinous tide rolling in.

So we must do without music or television. Even a single errant noise, crying out after hitting your hand with a hammer and they’ll come.

Watching what happened to the Martins was what finally made me walk downstairs, take the scissors from the sewing nook, and hack out my own tongue. It seemed to take hours, longer because I had to suppress my cries of pain. Just scissoring and scissoring away, choking back the blood as it filled my mouth.

After a while I saw Grace had been watching me. She was sitting in the corner, her head hung like a schoolgirl’s. She’s a large girl. Obese, I guess you might say. I don’t find her especially attractive, but we’ve been sleeping together quite a bit. Mostly just to stave off the boredom.

I’d never even seen her before when this all began nine months ago. That was back when there was still panic in the streets and no one understood what drove the creatures. She turned up on my doorstep seeking refuge. Not really knowing what else to do I’d let her in. She’d been the one to suggest that we try not talking.

She has a terrible stutter and rarely opens her mouth out of fear of embarrassment. She had taken note that her habitual silence had made her all but invisible to the creatures. She’d shared the secret with me full days before the news had suggested it. But by then, of course, most everyone was already gone and of those who remained few of us had the discipline to sit silently in our homes for the rest of our lives.

Then the Martins died, and I cut my tongue out. I was standing there with the bloody scissors and Grace just stuck her out her own tongue and closed her eyes, waiting for me to do it for her. Even with her stutter she didn’t trust herself never to utter another sound.

So now we sit. Day after day. Occasionally reading. Often fucking. We’ve taken to exercising a bit, too, not unlike prison lifting to pass the time. We have conversations on the whiteboard, but neither of us have very much to say. Christ said the meek would inherit the earth. I doubt this is what He meant.

It’s late now. Nearly three o’clock in the morning. With nothing to occupy my mind during the day I’ve become a habitual insomniac. The power went out ages ago and there’s no moon or stars out tonight. I can hear them, chittering away at each other in their own strange language.

In the darkness I’m haunted by memories.

Grace is thumping around in the next room. I wonder if she’s exercising. Perhaps she’s just masturbating. Either way I consider joining her. At least it would take my mind off those damned things.

They start out like black insects, about the size of a fist. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are extraterrestrial, but sometimes I think it’s more likely they originated right here on Earth. How could space bugs have evolved to love the human voice so much?

When they hear you they swarm into your mouth. You can crush one, maybe five. But you can’t escape all of them. The “winner” devours your tongue. I suppose when they finally get me they’ll be denied that little treat, at least. Then it latches onto the stem, turning itself into a nasty little prosthetic tongue.

They must tug on your nerves or else secrete some kind of venom, because once one’s gotten in your mouth you stop acting normal. You just walk around, arms and legs wildly flailing, as though the little bugs are student drivers attempting to drive your body.

I’ve looked into the eyes of people possessed like that. You can see them suffering, unable to control their own bodies or even close their mouths over the invader. A fully conscious meat puppet. If I had more guts I would try to kill them when I see them wandering around the streets below. But I don’t want to draw any attention.

A noise pierces the darkness. How is that possible? Grace is fat enough to hide it, but didn’t she know? Damn. I should have used protection. My newborn baby is crying in the next room.

[Image: http://davescupboard.blogspot.co.uk/2009/10/pickled-lambs-tongues.html]

 

About the Author

stephenkoz

Stephen Kozeniewski lives in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. During his time as a Field Artillery officer he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where, due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star.
He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s is in German.

Check out the other entries: The Secret of the Basement & Come in Here. Voting begins soon!

What’s your favourite so far? Let’s discuss – leave a comment.

UP NEXT ON HORROR OCTOBER: The final Flash Fic entry

This Week on Books 12.10.16 #TWIB #HorrorOctober

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Welcome to my weekly post, where I sum-up what I’ve been up to in bookland the past week. 

 

Greetings blog friends. It’s been another busy old week in the land of Horror October; Here’s what I’ve been reading…

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Now:  The Travelling Bag and other Ghostly Stories ~ Susan Hill

I’ve almost finished this story collection. I’ve enjoyed it, but it hasn’t blown me away.

Then:  Reckless ~ Cornelia Funke 

I found this really disappointing considering how much I’ve enjoyed her other books. My review will be up on Saturday. 

Next: ??? 

Definitely Hunter of the Dead by Stephen Kozeniewski, or the author might cry. Or pull out of the Flash Fiction Battle. I’m not sure which would be worse. :p 

New on the Shelves

Nothing – I’ve been very restrained this week!

 

OK, that’s it for this week. I’m not going to be taking part in Waiting on Wednesday during October because… well, there’s enough going on around here!
 
 

If you’re joining in leave the link to your answers in the comments so everyone can take a look 🙂

Up Next on Horror October: This Year in Horror (part 2)

Horror October 2016: Flash Fiction Battle #HorrorOctober #VoteNow

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I’m so glad Horror October is finally here; I’m mega excited about it this year!

As I mentioned in my welcome post earlier, this year I’m hosting a flash fiction battle which will see four of the best independent horror authors out there battle it out to to be crowned King or Queen of Horror (well, Horror October at least). 

You guys, yes you guys, can vote for the theme and the authors will write their guts out to produce the best horror story in 1000 words or under.

Voting ends in 5 days (Thursday 6th) so no dilly-dallying!

I’ll be introducing the writers as their stories come in, but in the mean time you can check them out using the links below:

A. Giacomi

Stevie Kopas

Stephen Kozeniewski

Lily Luchesi

Huge thanks to them and to Cleo @ Cleopatra Loves Books, Drew @ The Tattooed Book Geek and Lynn @ Lynn’s Book Blog who will be helping me to flog this little idea! 

Welcome to Horror October 2016!

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Prepare yourselves, Horror October is back!

Autumn is the best time of year to read all of those books you’ve been too scared to open and to curl up on the sofa to watch you favourite scary movie, so once again I’m dedicating a whole month to doing just that. Horror October #4 is here!

However, if you’re not a fan of horror, do not fret. As ever, I’m using the term quite loosely and hope there will be something to suit everyone. 

I’m also super-excited to be doing something a little different this year, and I need you guys to get involved. Keep reading if you dare…

Here’s what’s coming up:

1. The Books

I doubt I’ll get through all of these within the month but I’m going to give it a bloody good try. Click the links to visit their Goodreads pages.

New & Upcoming Releases

 

Haunt Me ~ Liz Kessler

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Joe wakes up from a deep sleep to see his family leave in a removals van. Where they’ve gone, he has no idea. Erin moves house and instantly feels at home in her new room. Even if it appears she isn’t the only one living in it. Bit by bit, Erin and Joe discover that they have somehow found a way across the ultimate divide – life and death. Bound by their backgrounds, a love of poetry and their growing feelings for each other, they are determined to find a way to be together.

Joe’s brother, Olly, never cared much for poetry. He was always too busy being king of the school – but that all changed when Joe died. And when an encounter in the school corridor brings him face to face with Erin, he realises how different things really are – including the kind of girl he falls for.

Two brothers. Two choices. Will Erin’s decision destroy her completely, or can she save herself before she is lost forever? 

Expected publication: October 6th 2016 by Orion Children’s Books

 

a5Someone has begun targeting vampires.

Vampire leaders of the thirteen Houses attribute the string of recent losses to over-zealous vampire hunters. Only Cicatrice, the most ancient and powerful vampire in the world, suspects that the semi-legendary Hunter of the Dead may be the real culprit.

Carter Price, a vampire hunter who despises the way his profession is becoming centralized and corporatized, begins to suspect the Hunter of the Dead is back, too – and no longer distinguishing between vampires and mortals. Against his better judgment, Price agrees to work with Cicatrice.

The uneasy allies attempt to uncover the truth about the Hunter, while a vampire civil war brews in the background. But perhaps most difficult of all, they must contend with their new apprentices, who seem to be falling in love with each other against every rule of man and monster…

Published: August 15th 2016 by Sinister Grin Press

Reckless 1: The Petrified Flesh ~ Cornelia Funke

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Enter the magical world behind the Mirrors…

Jacob has uncovered the doorway to another world, hidden behind a mirror. It is a place of dark magic and enchanted objects, scheming dwarves and fearsome ogres, fairies born from water and men born from stone.

Here, he hunts for treasure and seeks adventure in the company of Fox – a beautiful, shape-shifting girl, who guides and guards him.

But now Jacob’s younger brother has followed him into the mirrored world, and all that was freedom has turned to fear. Because a deadly curse has been spoken; and Jacob must risk his life to reverse it, before his brother is turned to stone forever…

Revised and updated by Cornelia Funke, The Petrified Flesh is the first book in the thrilling Reckless series.

Published: September 29th by Pushkin Press

 

The Travelling Bag and other Ghostly Stories ~  Susan Hill

a2Walter Craig was a clever scientist. As a young man he took away all the honours and prizes and some of his work was ground-breaking. But after he became seriously ill, his genius faded, and he needed the help of an assistant. When Silas Webb was appointed to the job he seemed the perfect choice, but he always preferred to work alone, even in secret. Then, quite suddenly, Webb disappeared.

Why ?

Later, Craig opens a prestigious scientific journal and finds a paper, containing his own work, in detail, together with the significant results he had worked out. The research is his and his alone. But the author of the paper is Dr Silas Webb.

Craig determines that he will hunt Webb down and exact revenge. Were it not for a terrifying twist of circumstance, he might have succeeded.

Published: September 29th 2016 by Profile Books

 

The Daemoniac ~ Kat Ross

a4It’s August of 1888, just three weeks before Jack the Ripper will begin his grisly spree in the London slum of Whitechapel, and another serial murderer is stalking the gas-lit streets of New York. With taunting messages in backwards Latin left at the crime scenes and even more inexplicable clues like the fingerprints that appear to have been burned into one victim’s throat, his handiwork bears all the hallmarks of a demonic possession.

But consulting detective Harrison Fearing Pell is convinced her quarry is a man of flesh and blood. Encouraged by her uncle, Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry hopes to make her reputation by solving the bizarre case before the man the press has dubbed Mr. Hyde strikes again.

From the squalor of the Five Points to the high-class gambling dens of the Tenderloin and the glittering mansions of Fifth Avenue, Harry and her best friend, John Weston, follow the trail of a remorseless killer, uncovering a few embarrassing secrets of New York’s richest High Society families along the way. Are the murders a case of black magic—or simple blackmail? And will the trail lead them closer to home than they ever imagined?

Expected publication: October 12th 2016 by Acorn

From the TBR Shelves:

 

The Merciless II ~ Danielle Vega

a6Danielle Vega—YA’s answer to Stephen King—once again brings major scares in the spine-tingling sequel to horror hit The Merciless, which MTV calls “Mean Girls meets The Exorcist.”

Sofia is still processing the horrific truth of what happened when she and three friends performed an exorcism that spiraled horribly out of control. Ever since that night, Sofia has been haunted by bloody and demonic visions. Her therapist says they’re all in her head, but to Sofia they feel chillingly real. She just wants to get out of town, start fresh someplace else . . . until her mother dies suddenly, and Sofia gets her wish.
 
Sofia is sent to St. Mary’s, a creepy Catholic boarding school in Mississippi. There, seemingly everyone is doing penance for something, most of all the mysterious Jude, for whom Sofia can’t help feeling an unshakeable attraction. But when Sofia and Jude confide in each other about their pasts, something flips in him. He becomes convinced that Sofia is possessed by the devil. . . . Is an exorcism the only way to save her eternal soul?

Readers won’t be able to look away from this terrifying read full of twists and turns that will leave them wondering, Is there evil in all of us?

Published: July 5th 2016 by Razorbill

 

missperegrineA mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.

A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

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This collection of 12 short stories from Poppy Brite contains collaborations with Christa Faust and David Ferguson and an introduction from Peter Straub. The collection also includes America, which features Steve and Ghost, the central characters in Lost Souls.

2. The Main Event

As I said earlier, I have planned something a little different this year. I’m hosting a Flash Fiction Battle!

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Four horror writers will fight it out for your votes on the best short story based on a theme chosen by you! More information will follow in my next post when votes will open!

 

3. Frightening Features & Gruesome Guest Posts

 

Jason Arnopp Guest Post

Jason’s recent horror novel The Last Days of Jack Sparks has been one of my favourites so far this year. I can’t rave about it enough. He is also the writer of Stormhouse, a Lionsgate horror film, a Friday the 13th novel and various Doctor Who books. I can’t wait for him to take over my blog later in the month. 

Pretty Wicked Book Blitz

“This creepy novel places you inside the mind of a twisted teen killer, which is even more unsettling because of how familiar and normal she seems. Be prepared to leave the lights on and look at the people around you in a whole new way.”

Poppy Z. Brite

I review Self-Made Man and discuss my fascination with Poppy Z. Brite

London FrightFest/ Film Reviews

Round-up of this years’ horror films and my time at Frightfest

This Year in Horror so far

Round-up of the horror books I’ve read so far this year

The Ultimate Halloween Sleepover Party

Planning a Halloween party? Well here’s everything you need for a successfully scary night in!

4. How to Get Involved

– Are you planning on reading or posting anything ghoulish or gruesome this month? If so let me know and I’ll link to your post on my weekly round-up

– Want to be a Horror October guest? I’m still open for guest posts, reviews, and spotlights. You’ll be fully credited and can still post on your own blog too so it’s a good opportunity to reach more people. Email me for more info.

– It goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway…comment away! I’ll also be tweeting using #HorrorOctober. And don’t forget to vote!

-Use my Horror October or Flash Fiction Image on your sidebar to show your support.

– Follow me on Twitter to get all the latest goings on: @ lipsyy 

This Week in Books 21.09.16 #TWIB #CurrentlyReading

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Welcome to my weekly post, where I sum-up what I’ve been up to in bookland the past week. 

It’s Wednesday so you know what that means…time to share how our reading week is shaping up! Don’t forget to leave your link in the comments for everyone to see 🙂 

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Now:  Cut to the Bone ~ Alex Caan // The EnchantedRene Denfeld

Cut to the Bone is a fast-paced police procedural thriller that I’m enjoying a lot. The e-book is out now but the paperback is due in November. I picked The Enchanted up at work and didn’t want to put it down so I’m reading that in my breaks too. 

Then:  Stealing SnowDanielle Paige

This started off well but went downhill 😦 My review went up on Monday. You can read it here

Next: ??? 

Probably Reckless by Cornelia Funke, or Haunt Me by Liz Kessler. Both are  ARCs that I’ll be reading for Horror October. They’re both YA. 

New on the Shelves

For review:

hunterofthedead.jpgSomeone has begun targeting vampires.

Vampire leaders of the thirteen Houses attribute the string of recent losses to over-zealous vampire hunters. Only Cicatrice, the most ancient and powerful vampire in the world, suspects that the semi-legendary Hunter of the Dead may be the real culprit.

Carter Price, a vampire hunter who despises the way his profession is becoming centralized and corporatized, begins to suspect the Hunter of the Dead is back, too – and no longer distinguishing between vampires and mortals. Against his better judgment, Price agrees to work with Cicatrice.

The uneasy allies attempt to uncover the truth about the Hunter, while a vampire civil war brews in the background. But perhaps most difficult of all, they must contend with their new apprentices, who seem to be falling in love with each other against every rule of man and monster…

Waiting on Wednesday

(Linking up with Breaking the Spine

 The Travelling Bag and other stories ~ Susan Hill

 

 I love Susan Hill’s atmospheric ghost stories and these editions are really pretty. I’m looking forward to this arriving in time for Horror October!
 
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 From the foggy streets of Victorian London to the eerie perfection of 1950s suburbia, the everyday is invaded by the evil otherworldly in this unforgettable collection of new ghost stories from the author of The Woman in Black.

In the title story, on a murky evening in a warmly lit club off St James, a bishop listens closely as a paranormal detective recounts his most memorable case, one whose horrifying denouement took place in that very building.

In ‘The Front Room’, a devoutly Christian mother tries to protect her children from the evil influence of their grandmother, both when she is alive and when she is dead.

A lonely boy finds a friend in ‘Boy Number 21’, but years later he is forced to question the nature of that friendship, and to ask whether ghosts can perish in fires.

This is Susan Hill at her best, telling characteristically flesh-creeping and startling tales of thwarted ambition, terrifying revenge and supernatural stirrings that will leave readers wide-awake long into the night.

Expected Publication: September 29th 2016 by Profile Books

 So, that’s my week in books, now how about yours?
 

If you’re joining in leave the link to your answers in the comments so everyone can take a look 🙂

And while I have you here I’m looking for guest posts/features/reviews/spotlights for Horror October. Get in touch if you’ d like to get involved. 

#HorrorOctober: The Ghoul Archipelago by Stephen Kozeniewski

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The Ghoul Archipelago by Stephen Kozeniewski

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Formats: Digital, Paperback, 360 pages
Publication Details: October 16th 2013 by Severed Press
Genre(s): Horror; Humour
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads // Amazon

After ravenous corpses topple society and consume most of the world’s population, freighter captain Henk Martigan is shocked to receive a distress call. Eighty survivors beg him to whisk them away to the relative safety of the South Pacific. Martigan wants to help, but to rescue anyone he must first pass through the nightmare backwater of the Curien island chain.

A power struggle is brewing in the Curiens. On one side, the billionaire inventor of the mind-control collar seeks to squeeze all the profit he can out of the apocalypse. Opposing him is the charismatic leader of a ghoul-worshipping cargo cult. When a lunatic warlord berths an aircraft carrier off the coast and stakes his own claim on the islands, the stage is set for a bloody showdown.

To save the remnants of humanity (and himself), Captain Martigan must defeat all three of his ruthless new foes and brave the gruesome horrors of…THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO.

Review

This is not your average zombie pulp! The Ghoul Archipelago is a breath of fresh air to people like me who are pretty sick of zombies.

Martigan is the captain of a freighter sailing through the South Pacific in a post-apocalyptic world caused by zombies, where the mainland is all but taken over. Martigan and his crew are fighting a losing battle between ghouls, pirates and a whole host of bizarre characters vying to take control of the islands.

There’s Sonntag the ex-prison priest, a businessman who has developed a sex-dream machine, a presidential politician, and the captain, all at the forefront of this bloody, bizarre, battle which I mostly enjoyed but came away feeling a bit ‘huhhhhhh?’

I felt like there were too many characters and too many story-lines going on at once – it was pretty confusing at first, but once I got into the POV changes it got easier. I also felt like the pacing was off in places, making it seem a lot longer than its 360 pages.

But that being said, I can’t fault Kozeniewski’s vision. It has some great moments of pure horror and thrilling action, making it one hell of a ride, even if I had no idea where I was being taken.

Kozeniewski has a way of sucking you in; his writing is effortless and intriguing, mixing gory grossness with his trademark wit. He put me on the ship and it was sink or swim! I think I just about found my sea legs by the end of it….

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