A MONTHLY FEATURE THAT SPOTLIGHTS
Happy Halloween, everyone!
A few of my favorite things: Halloween, October and a good 'n creepy but true story. A perfect time to have my friend and horror author, Mark Cassell visit with a chilling tale and how it may have inspired his debut horror novel, The Shadow Fabric and anthology, Sinister Stitches,
which releases tomorrow, on All Hallow's Eve!
Mark and I met in one of Rayne Hall's writing classes and he and I both have a story in
FIENDS: Ten Tales of Demons
edited by Rayne Hall.
Beware - he knows how to use his words to scare you...
We are all familiar with the concept of possessed dolls and haunted music boxes, but what of clothing? Could a spirit or entity, perhaps even a demon, exist within the stitches of a garment?
Before I begin this true account from when I was a child, I must tell you something discovered many years later when researching my debut novel: the hours around 3 a.m. are known as the Witching Hour or the Devil’s Hour. Sometimes, even the Dead Hour…
One morning all those years ago, my parents’ alarm yanked us from sleep at around 3.30 a.m.
Knowing it was set for their usual 6 a.m. wake up call, Mum and Dad put it down to a freak occurrence. Of course they would, anyone would. However, the following few mornings, varying between 3 and 4 a.m., that relentless chime tore through the house.
On the final time it went off, Dad mumbled into his pillow and fell back asleep while Mum clutched tight the covers, staring into the shadows above their bed. Dozens of thoughts tumbled through her sleep-deprived brain. After considering the need to buy a replacement clock, she wondered if something in the house had changed, whether anything new had been introduced into the home. Perhaps a recent purchase? Had something significant been bought?
A purple cardigan. Nothing fancy. She'd bought it in a charity shop the week before and having since washed it, it now hung from the wardrobe door. With these thoughts it was as though that cardigan took on a whole new meaning. Unworn, hanging silently on the other side of the room, it symbolised a foreign entity in our home; unknown, unwanted.
Mum prayed. Strong in faith, she asked for a sign to confirm this item of clothing was in fact the problem.
And the bell clanged. On the instant her prayer ended, the alarm burst with renewed energy.
She leapt from the bed, grabbed the cardigan and took the stairs two at a time. Once outside in the garden, she threw the thing in the dustbin.
Every morning after that, the alarm only ever went off at the set time.
Remember as a child when we were afraid of a T-shirt or jumper hanging on the opposite side of the bedroom? That innocent garment appears like a person’s silhouette, a silent spectre lurking in the shadows of a corner familiar during the day, yet morphing come the night. Such is a child’s natural innocence with an imagination sparked by all things new in this world. By comparison, through the eyes of an adult things can become unnatural, and here it appears that my mother’s faith kept us safe from the supernatural.
Perhaps I was destined to write The Shadow Fabric. When my family encountered that sinister garment all those years ago, maybe the concept stuck with me and I went on to tell its story. Okay, so the Shadow Fabric itself is a (fictional?) sentient darkness, but essentially a haunted fabric regardless. Was mum’s recently acquired possession indeed possessed by an entity similar to that which 30 years later I’d write into my novel?
If so, I’m glad my family never encountered it. Truly, truly glad. Yet we will never know. Nor will my family ever learn of the origins of that cardigan. Haunted or possessed, whatever the hell it was, we escaped something.
Sleep well, and I hope you never wake during the Dead Hour.
From the story collection, Sinister Stitches, here’s an excerpt from “Midnight Clay”:
As though the moonlight pushed him along, Owen freewheeled down the hill. The wind bit into his face, froze his knuckles. Often summer nights were like this, especially with a cloudless sky. If only he hadn’t left his coat back at Jimmy’s house.
A rumble in the distance, almost a howl, snatched his attention to the bend up ahead. He steered closer to the edge of the lane. He and Jimmy had an awesome evening; the new Dungeons and Dragons role-play game had stolen the day away. Before they’d realised it, night had fallen and Owen was late. Jimmy had beaten him with some lucky dice rolls.
The next game, Owen thought, would be war.
The rumble intensified; a vehicle approached at speed, still unseen. Perhaps a truck or lorry. Having cycled this route many times, he knew the lane was wide enough even if he did meet something that large. Still, he kept close to the grass verge.
Once more, his thoughts wandered to the game. Luck or not, next time he’d outsmart Jimmy.
Further ahead, along the winding road and through the trees, headlights forced back the darkness. Air-brakes hissed. A lorry, definitely, and it approached the bend without slowing.
Owen jammed on the brakes, the back wheel whirring on the tarmac.
He jerked to a halt.
The vehicle tore into the bend. Tyres screeched and juddered and groaned in protest. The trailer tilted, jack-knifed, and tipped. Something sleek, a silhouette against the night sky, leapt from the roof with what looked like enormous wings and too many limbs. Whatever it was, Owen had the fleetest glimpse as he threw himself sideways, dragging his bike. He rolled into the bushes, twigs and branches raked his hands and face. The lorry cleaved the tarmac, roaring like a metal dragon and uprooting trees and foliage, mud and earth.
His heart pounded in his throat.
After that there was silence, save for the creak of a buckled trailer wheel. And voices. Faint echoes on the wind from somewhere in the darkness. Not near the lorry but further away in the fields. Imagination surely; adrenaline from witnessing the crash. Imagination, too, had made him see that great…creature?
Entirely in his head.
He pushed himself up and staggered onto the road. The underside of the metal hulk loomed over him. A clump of mud and tangled brambles fell from the buckled wheel. Tiny glass beads covered the road, each one glinting moonlight.
If only he hadn’t left his phone in his coat pocket, back at Jimmy’s.
“Hello?” he called, heading for the cab.
No one answered.…
Sinister Stitches is out this Halloween, available on pre-order from Amazon.
Sinister Stitches blurb:
Twelve horror stories weave truths you do not want to hear. The collection includes:
Intensive Scare – Three teenagers dabble in the occult and learn there's a good reason to be afraid of the dark.
Red, White and Black – When a clinical trial goes horribly wrong, a lone survivor finds herself fleeing from a sentient infection.
Meeting Mum – Introducing a new girlfriend to your parents has never been so problematic.
Midnight Clay – An otherwise pleasant homeward journey is interrupted by a demon with a particularly grotesque skill.
Each story binds the Shadow Fabric mythos tighter, revealing that everything around us is entwined with a deep-rooted darkness. And sometimes that darkness the fabric tears.
GRAB YOUR COPY HERE:
The Shadow Fabric: www.TheShadowFabric.co.uk
Sinister Stitches (pre-order): http://amzn.to/1SuHihP
Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK with his wife and a number of animals. He often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, dark fantasy, and Sci-Fi stories have featured in several anthologies and ezines. Rayne Hall has included his work in three of her Ten Tales anthologies: Fiery Beasts, Cogwheels, and Fiends, and also a Shadow Fabric mythos story can be found in April Grey’s Hell’s Garden anthology. His flash fiction often features in the popular ezine, Sirens Call, and he writes a series for the Sci-Fi ezine, Future Chronicles, in which we follow the adventures of Alpha Beta Gamma Kill. His upcoming short story collection, Sinister Stitches, is only a fraction of an expanding mythos that began with his debut novel, The Shadow Fabric.
HAUNT MARK HERE:
HAVE A HAUNTINGLY HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!