Thursday, June 27, 2013

a strange dream

by anonymous

illustrated by konrad kraus

last night i had the strangest dream

i dreamed i was forging balzac's signature

on a letter to franz kafka

i didn't have much time

dupin was waiting in the next room

with sherlock holmes

i needed a quill

not a ball point pen

i found a fountain pen

in the drawer of the old wooden desk

it would have to do

dupin just glanced at it when i gave it to him

he and holmes were deep in discussion, muttering about something

i could not understand them

overcome with relief

i walked down the dark street

under the lamps

in the fog

the lights of a tavern beckoned

i entered

i settled in to a booth and ordered a foamy glass of dark ale from a rosy cheeked barmaid

i thought my troubles were behind me

but they had only begun

four people were seated at a table behind mine.

i could not help overhearing their conversation

i looked behind me and recognized them as

the distinguished novelist george meredith

mister gladstone

prince von bismarck, chancellor of the german empire

and our beloved queen victoria

to my horror i realized they were plotting a series of dreadful murders

of unfortunate women who were reduced to walking the streets

and selling that portion of themselves which no longer had any value

their plan of attack was carefully coordinated

each was to provide alibis for the others

and the murders themselves were to be executed with a minute and unimaginable savagery

i froze in my shadows

would they realize i was overhearing them?

with infinite care i rose from my seat

leaving my glass of ale untouched

not daring to look behind me i made for the door

an eternity passed

i could only make headway by swimming through the darkness

at last i reached the door

at last!

as i entered the street a tall figure brushed past me on his way into the tavern

it was sir edward burne-jones!

i fairly flew through the streets

when i reached my lodgings

i saw a strange yellow light in in my third story window

i opened the front door

and careless of waking mrs foster the landlady

i raced up the stairs

the light beneath my door was a ghastly pink!

i flung open the door

and there

hanging from the rafters

casting a dark and swirling shadow over my overturned paint pots and scattered brushes

was a dead man!

Friday, June 21, 2013

the peaceful village

by horace p sternwall

illustrated by roy dismas and konrad kraus

part one of two

once there was a peaceful village
with no murder, rape or pillage
everyone did honest labor
and was friendly to their neighbor

every door was opened wide
so that folks could come inside
all elders were respected
no crime was ever detected

they had no silver, jewels or gold
but through the valley a river rolled
bringing water to boundless crops
that folks could eat until they dropped

mom and dad got up at dawn
and polly put the kettle on
all day long they did their chores
so that they were never bored

grandmothers were round and wise
and made excellent blueberry pies
grandpa though his hair was grayed
enjoyed his pipe beneath the shade

little boys ran and spread the news
little girls minded their p's and q's
it was the way that it should be
for all of eternity

and then one day a shadow fell
across the world they knew so well
thunder rolled across the land
the distant horizon was fearfully scanned

nightmares visited young and old
strange tales around the fire were told
people kept their doors shut tight
and could hardly sleep at night

outside the village a monster lurked
skulking in the fog and murk
waiting for the silent hour
the unwary traveler to devour

no longer could the children play
even in the light of day
birds abandoned the cloudy skies
the villagers scanned with frightened eyes

laughter was replaced with fear
throughout the long and dreary year
the leafless trees felt winters chills
and the monster laughed behind the hills

things might have gone along this way
and the village perished, who can say?
but fate would not be so forlorn
because a hero had been born

johnny smith, a faceless sort
showed little sign, by all reports
of standing out among the crowd
not too quiet, not too loud

even johnny's mom and dad
little suspected that johnny had
the stuff of heroes in his being
none indeed were so farseeing

the night was dark, and wet and drear
the little household huddled in fear
mom and dad and johnny and sis
as the rain against the windows hissed

dad whittled at his favorite stick
you could hear mom's heartbeat tick
sis stared into space and wiggled her toes
then johnny from the table rose

his algebra homework he put down
and looked around with a puzzled frown
he listened to the rain and scratched his head
i think i'll go for a walk, he said

sis looked puzzled, dad looked sad
mom cried, johnny, are you mad
this is something you must not do
outside, certain death awaits you

aw gee ma, don't talk like that
said johnny, putting on his hat
my clouded brain needs a fresh air shock
i will just walk around the block

so without saying anything more
johnny walked over and opened the door
and disappeared into the wind and rain
would he ever be seen again?

part 2

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

the bargain

by horace p sternwall

originally published in the june 1957 issue of desperate stories

illustrations by roy dismas

night was falling.

a train whistled in the distance.

it was time.

twenty years.

he had stayed in the shack for twenty years, as instructed.

and now it was time.

he walked out of the shack.

he closed the door behind him. he did not lock it, as he had no key.

the last rays of the sun disappeared behind the horizon.

he started walking down the hill.

he had kept his part of the bargain. would they keep theirs?

even if they meant to, a lot could go wrong in twenty years.

he came to the old tree, which had marked the limit of his walks during his time in the cabin.

he passed the tree. he did not look back.

another two miles, and he should come to a big rock, and a curb and a dip in the road.

a car or truck should be waiting.

he made good time. the night was clear. the path was not too narrow.

his mind was a blank. he noticed the trees, the rocks, and the leaves and pine needles on the path.

it wasn't too cool or too warm. he took his jacket off and slung it over his shoulder.

suddenly, he was there.

and the vehicle was there. a station wagon, looking pretty much like the ones he would have seen twenty years ago.

a woman was leaning against it. in the darkness he could not tell her age or if she was good looking.

she didn't speak, but waited as he approached.

"you from jenkins?" he asked.

"of course." she had a husky, smoker's voice. "you got anything in that jacket?"


"the jacket. let us see the jacket."

us? he took the jacket off his shoulder and fanned it.

"throw it over here."

as he tossed her the jacket the rear door of the station wagon opened and another, bigger woman got out.

the big woman motioned for him to lift his arms, and she patted him down.

"i guess you can't be too careful."

they ignored this. "get in the front," the first woman told him. she handed the jacket back to him.

he relaxed. everything was going to be all right. why would they go to all this trouble, leave him up there for twenty years if they were not going to keep their end of the bargain?

he got in. the seat was pushed back, there was plenty of room. the first woman got in the driver's seat. there was a purse between the seats and she took her time getting a cigarette out of it and lighting it. the other woman got back in the back seat, behind him.

"want a drink?" the first woman asked.

"uh - i wouldn't object to a little one."

"there's a half pint in the glove compartment. help yourself."

sure enough, there was a half pint of dewar's in the glove compartment, unopened.

"um - you got a cup or something. i wouldn't want to -"

"just drink it. it's all yours. it's a present from jenkins."

"we're not whiskey drinkers anyway," said the woman in back. it was the first time she had spoken. "we're more beer drinkers. schlitz. we like our schlitz."

he broke the seal and opened the bottle and took a sip. as soon as the liquor passed his throat he knew something was wrong.

he heard the engine start up. it was the last thing he heard.