O Unholy Night in Deathlehem – a holiday horrors charity anthology available now

My doom laden Christmas story, TRADITIONS AND ROTTEN DELICACIES, is included in the latest edition of the Grinning Skull Press annual Deathlehem charity anthology series available here. Its for a good cause as proceeds go to The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

This was a story I wrote a long time ago which was to be included in a Christmas/winter weird horror anthology by me. Due due to some heroic procrastination techniques I diligently employed throughout 2018, it hasn’t yet gotten off the ground, so it gave me an excuse to work on polishing one of the stories. Plus, it’s going to a good cause.

Thanks to Harrison Graves (editor) and Grinning Skull Press for publishing. Other authors include fellow flash fiction writers I often get published with Wiebo Grobler and Christopher Stanley (#teamdarkness).

Happy holidays and good reading!

S.E. Casey

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THE STARS OVER CASPER, TEXAS — honorable mention, Weird Christmas Flash Fiction Contest

My 350 word short holiday story, THE STARS OVER CASPER, TEXAS, received an honorable mention from WeirdChristmas.com‘s inaugural holiday flash fiction contest. You can listen to my story and 11 other weird flash fiction stories from the contest results episode of the podcast (mine starts at 12:41), or read it in the comments section. So, what is my story about? I think the host’s introduction to it says it all, “…a mix between Cormac McCarthy and Thomas Ligotti”. So, that’s going in the Author Bio; heh, heh.

Thanks to Craig at Weird Christmas for running the contest. He has committed to doing it again next year, so get your stories ready (only 350 days until the 2019 deadline). Also, thanks to Brian Earl (twitter- @XmasPastPodcast) from the Christmas Past blog for his reading of my story.

S.E. Casey

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The Toy Gun Factory – (A Christmas Horror Story)

There were no ceremonies and no witnesses. Twelve days before Christmas, in the middle of the Shaker Hills Mall parking lot, the tree appeared overnight.

Driven clear through the asphalt, its expansive width obliterated several rows of prime parking spaces. Gnarled bark and cankerous knots pocked its sooty trunk. Laden with rotten needles, its black branches swept off the stocky axis casting an ominous shade in the weak December sun.

Ribbons of mercury festooned the dark conifer, an infernal beauty in the cancerous tinsel although no one was fool enough to touch. We knew to steer clear, a tangible blight radiating from its awful core. At night, we beheld the lights recessed in the stygian foliage blinking deliberately like eyes of some wicked deep-forest predators.

No one knew the motivation behind the unwanted gift or the identity of its silent benefactor. The mall remained open despite the sinister presence. However, sales were sluggish, the mall plagued by a myriad of strange phenomenon. Without explanation and at irregular intervals, dirges of bassoons and oboes would blare over the PA system. Escalators suddenly reversed zooming backwards at ten times the speed, several broken bones and concussions the consequence. A six-year-old girl’s hand was badly scalded in the atrium wishing well, the waters somehow brought to boil.

The odd occurrences continued after hours. The department store mannequins were repositioned during the night, no one admitting to the deed. In the morning, the store owners would find them lurking in menacing poses or dangling from the ceiling in mock hangings. Thirteen mannequins went missing, the same number as the work gloves and coveralls mysteriously stolen from Krauss’s Sporting Goods.

Silent for decades, the abandoned factory behind the mall fired up its furnaces. Iron dust spewed from the dilapidated smokestacks which had been painted in a candy cane swirl. No one smiled at the mockingly festive design, a foul brown cloud gathering above the dilapidated building. Whoever manned the old assembly lines remained a mystery. No one could get close enough to find out, the demonic growls of the watchdogs slinking unseen amidst the winter shadows keeping everyone at bay.

The mall shut down three days before Christmas, abandoning the most profitable shopping days. The Yuletide spirit had been wrung out of us. We mostly stayed home, the shuttered factory’s hellish growl and faceless laborers the town’s only commerce.

On Christmas Eve, we were compelled to gather around the monstrous tree. Basking in the icy moon shadows, we celebrated under the starry black limbs, foolish worshippers shushing the crying children before hanging our sacrifices in those solemn, malevolent boughs.

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Story first published in 2017 on HorrorScribes.com. Placed 6th place in the Horror Scribes 2017 Christmas Horror Story Contest.

Sugarplums and Other Carrion

My latest story, ‘Sugarplums and Other Carrion’, has been published as a part of the Christmas themed anthology ‘The Deadman’s Tome Krampus Christmas‘ (click for link).  As the title suggests this is a holiday themed story although it does not include Krampus.  Instead I wrote about a dark Christmas between-the-cracks, a secret celebration under rat-tail mistletoe while drunk on sour mother’s milk nog.

Thanks to the Deadman’s Tome for publishing my admittedly disturbing piece.  For any aspiring authors, the Deadman’s Tome is easily the most fun you can have in submitting, that necessary evil of being a writer.  Although it is a one-man operation, there is clear communication and decisions are made quickly, not dragged out over months.  Many new authors have been published here and there are no constraints on content.

For this particular anthology, it’s purposely focused with five well-defined, different short stories and one epic poem.  The other authors are Grant Butler, Mark Slade, Christopher Powers, and William Marchese.  Please check out and consider supporting some independent authors and an independent press.  Also, check out the Deadman’s Tome website/blog for other Christmas horror stories, no taboo too great, to be posted just about every other day throughout the month.

Oh, and then there’s Gary Buller’s ‘The Present’, the first story in ‘…Krampus Christmas’, a harrowing tale about that small Christmas gathering you’d rather not have about a gift that you’d rather not get.  Check out some of Gary’s other short story offerings (such as ‘The Way Out’) on the Deadman’s Tome as well, some of the most popular tales to be posted on the site.

 

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Of Christmas Horror – Krampus

In my younger years, Christmas horror stories were always ones I avoided, no particular interest in them.  As an example, in reading a Thomas Ligotti anthology years ago, there was a story whose title suggested Christmas (I looked it up – The Christmas Eves of Aunt Elise).  As is my habit with short story collections, I skip around, choosing the next story based on how interesting the titles sound, and I am sure I left this one for last.  However, it turned out to be a fulfilling, provocative read.  While Christmas was the setting and backdrop of Ligotti’s story, not the primary source of the particular horror, it did add a principal element in its oppressive atmosphere and motive of the characters.

This exception to the rule notwithstanding, and not taking a lesson learned, my bias can be best explained by the story-line most commonly associated with Christmas horror- Krampus.  In truth, I had never heard of this specific character until recently, unaware this specific folklore dedicated to a malevolent anti-Santa figure existed so widely- a product of my Christmas story indifference perhaps.  The Krampus construct fits my preconception of Yuletide inspired horror where the spirit of Christmas is threatened by a menacing presence which must be exorcised lest the holiday (and all we’good’ souls who celebrate it) suffer.  Now that I write it, I see it as the basic plot of the Grinch— a seasonal confection viewed enough times as a child to permanently fuse into my subconscious.

My lack of enthusiasm for this narrative comes from its absence of moral dilemma.  The good and evil characters are so pre-defined they are not bothered to be introduced, and to reduce even further, the definitions of good and evil are also negligently assumed.  Most simply stated, these story’s conflict can be explained as a status quo has been upturned and must be corrected back to the way it was… a reflexive presumption that any change should be resisted.  But why?  This most conservative of ideas, like an angry railing of some crotchety old man, is where the return to the good old days is both the ideal and the justification in of of itself…  an adolescent argument of just because…  Not the side of the philosophic side of the tracks I normally choose to reside.  It is much more rewarding to question why the status quo should be defended, or if, maybe with some benign neglect, there may be an elegant opportunity for something better to replace the old. What would it be for the sacred cow of Christmas to fall?  To my tastes, this is a more interesting and challenging imaginary universe.

Of course, Krampus is not all Christmas horror, and there is an place for Krampus in literature/entertainment, no accounting for my specific tastes.  However, in opposition to this trope I have written a few short stories where Christmas itself is the horror, rather than a damsel in distress.  Hopefully, my fiction blurs the line of morality and expectation, as well as confronts the possibility our Yuletide traditions (at least to some) may be stale and even vulgar.  Could Christmas be a Trojan Horse, a veneer of light and merriment, with sinister intent festering inside?  Or perhaps it is some Lovecraftian behemoth devoid of purpose, nobly ignorant to how it is mistakenly interpreted by we lesser, unimaginative creatures.

In this unfrozen Christmas ground, I plan on writing more of these short stories based more on questions than answers, eventually publishing together in a collection.  For now, one of my Christmas themed stories, SIX BEASTS A FLAYING, which can be found in the horror magazine Devolution Z (December 2015, Vol 5), is about a vindictive Yuletide spirit lashing out to protect its own tired, burnt out land that holds nothing worthy of defending.  Also, I have posted a free story NICHOLAS’ LIGHT (Smashwords, Barnes&Noble, Itunes, Amazon) which begs the question of Christmas’ ultimate destination in its disturbing progression of its celebrants—a wonder of children, then an obligation of adults, and finally a forlorn pining for the past of the elderly-a wholesome innocence never to be relived.

Please see below link for free download of my Christmas short story if anyone is interested.  Always remember, Christmas is other people.

Free download of Nicholas’ Light (a Christmas Short Horror Story)

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