Categories
Featured Indie Horror Creation Indie horror writers Short Horror Stories

Phantom War Part 1: The Creatures

For Bethany. You were worth the fight.

The cool, autumn night brought with it the presence of uneasiness and uncertainty. The full moon hung high in the air like a stationary spotlight–a beacon guiding the two lovers with its gravitational force. It pulled the two together in ebb and flow; in high and low, just as it did the tides of the seas and oceans.

The Girl with Sunlit Hair and Black Wings stood atop the mountain. Her shadow draped across the valley under the gleam of the moon like a black sheet. She breathed in the crisp, night air then exhaled.

“Dear God,” she prayed. “Please bring him safely to me. Let not my lover stumble nor let fear be found in his valiant heart.”

Her thoughts were on The Man with Hazel Eyes and Broken White Wings. She knew it would take him longer to find her since he could no longer fly. He was now down in the valley, obscured by the curtain of her stretching shadow. He heart pounded deep in her chest and perspiration formed on her forehead. She knew what things were awakened in the valley when the full moon stepped onto the stage of the night sky.

The Girl had seen the Creatures in her dreams and heard their whaling. She had visions of the Demons and had seen their teeth. She had premonitions of the Monsters and trembled at the energy they gave off.

“Dear God,” she prayed again. “I hope he remembered the protective amulet. And may he be strapped with his steel and prepared for battle.”

She had given The Man a protective amulet when they first met. It was a black cross crafted from jet stone. She knew deep within her heart and soul the Man would need it one day. She never thought today would be the day.

She also knew The Man was wise and would not enter the Valley without its protection nor the comfort of his steel. Nevertheless, her heart feared his journey. So, under the glow of the night’s sun, she awaited her lover.

The Man with Hazel Eyes and Broken White Wings traveled through the Valley under the shadow of the Girl. His thoughts jumped from her to his Guardian Creator. His ears were attentive to every sound. His nose picked up on a rancid scent.

In the Realms of the Phantoms both good and evil had a smell. The Good gave off a clean fragrance of fresh linen and sunflowers. The Evil stunk of rotting flesh and sulfur.

The Man knew if he could smell the entities of the night, then they could smell him as well. It would only be a matter of moments before they would pick up on his scent. When they did, they would awaken and seek to spill his blood.

He looked up from the Valley and saw the trees. He peered through the twisted fingers of the leafless branches at the moon and thought of her again–The Girl with Sunlit Hair and Black Wings. He had to get to her. Their very lives depended on it.

A shuffling in the rocky sand of the Valley drew his mind away from her. His hand moved with a swift motion and gripped the hilt of his steel, which rested in his waistband. The noise ascended. It grew closer and louder.

And then he saw them in the moonlight.

These weren’t the foes he expected to see first. From the tales of the few survivors to make it through the Valley, the Creatures were the last to face.

The Man drew his steel then gripped his cross amulet. “Dear God,” he prayed. “Let my feet be swift and my blows deadly.” He let go of the cross and held his sword with both hands.

A massive, churning clod of serpent-like creatures raced towards him. In the light of the moon, the reflection of their scales resembled all the colors of the rainbow. Their tales were as scorpions and they had no face.

These were the Mind Serpents. They were beasts of such negative, psychic power, they were able to enter the mind of a man and make him go insane. Doubt, depression, and self-loathing would take over. Once the Creatures had a man paralyzed by his own self pity and sunken into the hatred of his own soul, they would strike with their tails.

The venom would work as a mind toxin and make a man take their thoughts as his own. Once this happened, a man would, in a fit of insanity, run his blade through his own heart.

Legend had it that the number of the serpents represented the threat the warrior posed. A man of normal courage would face one. A brave man, two, and a courageous man, three. Never had there been tales of more than this.

The Man counted the faceless heads as they approached.

There were five.

The Man swallowed hard and felt the finger of fear tickle at his heart. He swiped it away and prepared himself for war.

The Creatures were within twenty yards when they launched their psychic attack. The mind fuck was the most insidious sensation The Man had ever experienced.

He always thought he was mentally strong, but now he felt himself in a tornado of negative thoughts and emotions. He dropped his blade and fell to his knees. He placed his hands over his bleeding ears and screamed.

“Jesus! God! Make them stop!” Spittle flew from his lips and the tendons in his neck stretched as a flesh covered harp.

The Girl with Sunlit Hair and Black Wings gasped as she heard the screams of her lover echo through the Valley. She ran towards The Willow Tree at the edge of the cliff. She parted the curtain of its hanging branches and placed one hand on her bosom and one hand on the trunk of the tree. Her eyes searched in desperation for The Man but he could not see through the shield of darkness in the Valley.

“Please, my angel. Please be all right,” she said between heavy breaths.

The Man continued his screams and the serpents encircled him. They churned and twisted, running their bodies over his stomach and shoulders.

In his mind, The Man saw visions of great sorrow, pain, and loss. He saw all Abaddon had taken from him and his heart grew faint.

“I am no warrior,” The Man thought. “I am no fighter. I am only a failed savior with broken wings. I am a coward frozen by terror and self pity.”

Further and further his mind spiraled down into an abyss of nothingness.

But there was something different about The Man the serpents were not prepared for; something no man in the Valley ever had…

As The Man reached the bottom of the pit of his mind, he found a Phoenix waiting for him.

“Who are you,” The Man asked.

“I am you,” the Phoenix said.

“I am no Phoenix,” he said. “I am but a wasted angel with useless wings and a coward’s heart.”

The Phoenix flapped its wings and engulfed The Man in waves of fire. “No,” it said. “You are thunder and lightening. You are a burning ember and a flash of fire!”

The Phoenix took flight and extended its talons. The bird gripped The Man by the shoulders and began to fly him out of the abyss. The grip of the Phoenix burned and brought a sense of mental sobriety to The Man. The two ascended higher and higher, causing all the dark thoughts to dissipate.

The Man now saw who he really was. Though he had broken wings, he was a warrior. He was more courageous than all his peers and the most noble knight to ever step foot into the Valley. He was a man of abounding love. A man of resilience and perseverance. A man loved by God and The Girl with Sunlit Hair and Black Wings.

The Man was jolted back into consciousness. A stinger from one of the serpents was whizzing through the air at him. He ducked and rolled away, then knelt and fetched his steel.

The serpents lashed and coiled in anger and confusion. The Man saw their hesitation and struck. With the rage of a wild beast, his sword followed the lead of his hands as a bridled horse. He chopped off one head, followed by another. Sprays of rainbow colored blood misted from the serpents as their bodies flopped on the road of the Valley.

He finished off the rest of the serpents in the same manner. Their bodies seized and their rainbow life seed drained from their bodies. The Man was soaked in the multicolored blood and pools of it puddled around his feet.

“Oh God, the smell,” The Man said and his his nose in the gape of his arm. He gagged a few times then dry heaved.

After he composed himself, The Man gathered the faceless serpent heads and ran them through with his blade. His piercing left holes at both ends of the heads. He wiped his sword on one of their lifeless bodies, then returned it to its sheath. He removed his backpack and retrieved his rope. He then slid the rope through the heads and tied it off at each end into a giant necklace.

The Man clenched his trophy and raised it towards the night sky.

“Abaddon,” he yelled. “Heaven knows no fury like a warrior’s blade!”

He lowered his prize and continued his journey. The necklace of heads crackled as he dragged them through the rocky soil of the Valley.

“Girl with Sunlit Hair and Black Wings,” he called out. “I am coming for you. As I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, it shall fear my evil!”

The Girl with Sunlit Hair and Black Wings heard the voice of her lover ascend from the Valley to her ears. She stepped away from the cliff and rested her back against The Willow Tree. She slid down and sat, relieved.

“I know you are coming, angel,” she said. She breathed deep and exhaled as she awaited him to face his next challenge.

Categories
Featured Indie Horror Indie Horror Creation Indie horror writers Short Horror Stories

Phantom War Part 2: The Monsters

For Bethany. You were worth the fight

The deeper into the Valley The Man journeyed the darker it grew. The wind hummed like a locomotive as it pressed against his body. The gust was so powerful it blew and dust into his eyes, further decaying his already obscured vision. He draped his arm over his face and walked with slow, calculated steps. 

The Man wondered what abominations awaited him next. Things were already going against the normal routine of the Valley, and a sense of uneasiness suffocated his heart. He reflected on this so-called “order of the Valley” and came to a startling revelation: order was only an attribute and function of Creator God. The Valley was pure evil, and pure evil was always chaotic. There was no order in the Valley, nor was there an order to which satanic brood would attack next. The Valley was pure and adulterated chaos. In the Valley, chaos was king. 

The wind slowed its breathing and The Man was able to see again. The moon no longer resembled a lantern in the fog but hung in the sky as the ruler of the night. He stared up at the trees atop the Valley. He swore by God he saw them move.

“But there is no more wind,” he mumbled to himself. He assumed he still had dust in his eyes, so he fetched the water pouch at his side and rinsed them. He blinked numerous times until his vision was clear. He set his sight on the other side of the Valley and saw several branches ripple then disappear.

“It must be them,” The Man whispered and recalled the tales of The Monsters. 

These entities were covered in tentacles and there were two types. One species had a spiral body with a black hole in the center. They had no sense of sight but the hole operated as a center for heightened hearing. Their bodies were laced with branch-like tentacles.

The second species had no sight either and the same type of black hole in the center, equipped with the same hyper-sensative hearing. The core of these monsters was shaped like a lily. Their tentacles were more soft and fluid, as string blowing in the wind. 

The goal of The Monsters was to wrap their tentacles around each person’s body parts and rip them off with one, powerful yank. A normal man would be lucky to be maimed by only one. A brave man might make it past them with only missing toes, fingers, and an arm. But this man would soon pass out and die from lack of blood or shock. The Man with Hazel Eyes and Broken White Wings was positive there were two hunting him down. One from the east side of the Valley and one from the west. 

The Girl with Sunlit Hair and Black wings had heard the roaring of the wind when it rushed through the Valley and wondered how The Man was fairing against the elements. She had heard no screams so she was confident her beloved was still alive and making his way to her. The Girl’s nerves still danced and spun like ballerinas on stage despite her confidence. She knew there was nothing she could do but be patient, so she prayed for The Man to survive and find his way to her. 

The Girl wished her angel still had his wings, then he would not have to journey through the treacherous Valley. Rather, he could have flown, like her, to their Willow Tree. They could now be making love under it as in the days before his wings were destroyed. 

She reflected on the times when his wings were whole. 

“Oh, my angel,” she said. “I remember when you would fly and meet me here and wrap those wings around me. You made me feel so safe.” She reached for a branch on the tree and caressed it with her hand. She slid the leaves between her fingers and felt them tickle her skin. 

“Those were enchanting days, my angel,” she said, staring out over the Valley. “The days of ease. The days before Abaddon came.” 

It was only one week ago before the satanic beast wreaked havoc on their village. She remembered the day with the utmost clarity. She was kissing her beloved in the field outside the city walls when something blacked out the sun.

The two broke their kiss and  gazed upwards. A beast of ungodly size hovered in the sky above them. The thing was as black as total darkness and its wingspan was so wide, it seemed to touch the clouds. Its body was covered in hair and primate-like. It had the head of a goat and the mouth of a dragon. Its horns were long and prominent. 

The Man and The Girl stared in awe at the dragon. Its wings flapped and its mouth let out a deafening, apish roar. The two recoiled at the sound as trepidation found its way into the marrow of their bones. 

The Girl broke their trance and said, “Dear God, it is heading…”

“Towards the village,” The Man finished for her. 

The Man looked at The Girl with wide eyes and grabbed her arm with a firm grip. 

His hazel eyes were the most intense and fearful they had ever been.

“Fly with haste to the village,” he had said. “I will go after the beast.” 

The Girl stood frozen, as if her feet were cemented to the ground and as if her wings were weighted down by bricks. She didn’t think she could find the courage to move. However, she found herself nodding in agreement to his command. By the grace of Creator God, her wings flapped and she took flight. 

The Man watched to make sure the dragon did not turn his attention to The Girl. When he saw she was in the clear, his feet left the ground and he went in pursuit of the beast. 

The speed at which the dragon had flown was like none The Man had ever encountered. Each flap of its wings seemed to thrust it ahead one hundred yards. He clenched his fist, gnashed his teeth, and flew faster. Perspiration soaked his body and his muscles locked in knotted balls. The Man had flown so hard, for the first time in his life, some feathers dislodged from his wings. They swirled around him then made a slow descent to the ground. 

The dragon neared the village.

The Man looked on. His face contorted and his brow furrowed. “Damn these fucking wings,” he had shouted. “Go faster!” He dug down deep into his being to find more power to exert towards his wings but he could not fly any faster. “God damn these useless wings!”

The Man glanced down to see if he could locate The Girl. He didn’t see her anywhere near the village. He tucked his head to look behind him. She trailed The Man by several hundred yards. The Man knew if he did not gain on the beast, there would be no village left to spare. His children were there and so were The Girl’s. 

The dragon picked up seed. The village loomed closer. The Man watched on helpless.

The dragon was now in range of the village. It opened its mouth and flashes of fire exploded forth. The humble stick and hay houses evaporated into flames. Screams from the burning victims ascended into the sky and reached The Man’s ears. 

“Cormac! Doriann!” The Man screamed his children’s names as he drew closer to the village. 

Everything was engulfed in flames. The dragon was gone just as fast as he came, leaving behind him a path of smoke and fire. 

The Man ascended into the chaos. The heat from the fire pressed against his skin like hot irons. The smoke clouded his vision and filled his lungs. He stumbled around in the inferno, calling his children’s names as well as The Girl’s between coughs and gasps of air.

“Cormac! Doriann! Ewing! Duncan!” The Man could not get his bearings and had no idea where in the city he was. He was about to pass out when he felt arms grasp around him. He watched as he ascended from the firestorm and the burning village grew smaller in his sight. 

The Girl had rescued him before he passed out and was consumed by the flames. 

The Girl with Sunlit Hair and Black Wings tried to push the remaining thoughts out of her mind but found herself powerless against their deluge. The next memories broke her heart and brought tears to her eyes.  

She remembered sitting with The Man outside the village as the burning embers still smoked. She watched him rise to his feet and enter the village. She had followed him at a distance, not wanting to see what she knew awaited her–the dead and charcoaled bodies of their children. 

The next image in her mind? It was The Man rummaging through his home which was nothing more than a pile of ashes. He found Cormac and Doriann, his seven year old boy-girl twins. He scooped their bodies from the ash heap and held them in his arm, one against each shoulder. Their skin was black and flakey and their hair was burned off. He staggered a few yards then fell to his knees in anguish. He plopped their dead bodies to the ground, then lifted his head to the heavens.

“God! Why! They were my babies! They were innocent!” He gazed at the girl. His face was littered with disappointment and confusion. “I..I..couldn’t save them.” He ran his finger through his long brown hair and gripped it tight. Through tears he cried, “Damn these wings! I couldn’t get here in time. If only I was…” His voice faded to a whisper. “…faster…If only…faster.” He locked eyes with The Girl again. “I failed us. I failed them. I failed you.” 

They buried their children outside of the village then flew to the mountain where the Willow Tree sat. The Girl sat next to The Man under the tree. They didn’t speak. She rubbed his back as he breathed heavy breaths. She understood. Her heart broke and she weeped with him over the death of their children and the death of the life they had dreamed about. 

Then the unthinkable happened. The Man jumped to his feet.

“What? Where are you going,” The Girl had asked.

The Man answered her not. He took off running full speed to the rocky side of the mountain. The Girl cringed as The Man slammed his back to the mountain. She heard the bones in one of his wings crunch as he let out a laugh filled with pain and anger. The Girl leaped to her feet.

“Stop! What are you doing,” she had said. 

“Damn!”

Smash.

“These!”

Crunch.

“Mother!”

Snap.

“Fucking!”

Crunch.

“Wings!”

Shatter.

The Man’s wings hung broken and mangled from his back. He reached around in a fit of rage and ripped feathers from his wings.

The Girl sprinted over to him. “Stop this madness,” she had yelled. “What are you doing!”

The Man paused and glared at her. “Step away from me, woman. Do not interfere.” 

The Girl backed away. Her eyes were heavy and her face, fallen. She watched in agony and heartbreak as The Man slammed his back into the side of the mountain until his wings were a featherless mush. 

A shriek jolted her from her memories. “My beloved,” she gasped and eased over closer to the cliff. 

The Man with Hazel Eyes and Broken White Wings saw The Monsters rushing down the side of the mountain towards him. They let out an awful sound as they prepared to attack. Their tentacles stuck like lightning and wrapped around The Man’s legs. They pulled hard and The Man fell on his backside. Sword in hand, he rolled onto his stomach and tried to scurry away. The Monsters yanked with more force each in the opposite direction. They spread his legs and The Man could feel the muscles in his legs and groin being stretched to oblivion.

The Monsters whipped their tentacles and flipped The Man over. Survival instincts took over and The Man hacked away at the tentacles with his steel. Orange blood spewed from the wounds and he axed away at them as if he were chopping down a tree. The tentacles severed and The Monsters withdrew them with howls of pain. 

The Man unwrapped himself from the severed limbs and flung them aside. He leaped to his feet and gripped his sword with both hands. The Monsters circled him and waved their tentacles in the air with wild motions. The Man’s eyes darted back and forth, trying to gauge the motion of each movement. 

Another appendage struck. This one wrapped around his waist. He then felt a tightness around his neck as one began to choke the life from him. There was a snap as one of his ribs broke. His brain was being depleted from oxygen and his vision became blurry. His consciousness was fading and his legs were weak. His strength was being dried out like a potsherd in the desert sun. 

In his mind he saw The Girl. They were standing in a field. Her blonde hair glistened under the summer sun. She wore a white dress and had a crown of flowers in her hair. She was smiling up at him and laughing. He could feel his arms around him, pulling him in for a kiss. As their faces met, hers evaporated. He now stared into the black hole of one of the Monsters. With the last bit of consciousness in his grip, The Man raised his arms and made a thrusting motion with his sword. The blade sank deep into the hole of The Monster.

The relief was immediate. The tentacled loosened from his neck and the bleating screams of the Monster brought him back to reality. He withdrew his blade and was then covered in a shower of orange blood. The Monster’s tentacles went limp and it fell to the ground dead. 

Pain surged through The Man’s middle as the other Monster squeezed tighter. Another rib snapped.

“Shit,” The Man yelled. An appendage was now wrapped around his free hand. He hacked away in fury at both of them. 

The two tentacles bled and pulled back. The Monster paused and The Man took his opportunity. He drew his sword back and sprinted forward. He extended his arms and struck the Monster in its black hole. He twisted the blade back and forth and made a circling motion. Blood seeped from the wound and the Monster twitched. The Man withdrew his steel and the Monster hit the ground. The Man raised his sword over his head to strike but the pain in his ribs stopped him. He decided to let the thing suffer as its life ebbed away. 

As the Monster died, the man sliced away on one of the tentacles. He took a piece about two feet long and pierced it through. He grabbed his necklace of heads from the ground and untied it. He placed his sword in its sheath and slipped the tentacle on to add to his trophy. With one hand he held his ribs and with the other dragged the necklace behind him.

“My darling,” The Man called. “I am hurt but I am victorious!” A sharp pain dug into his side as he yelled. He winced and hoped his beloved heard him.

The Girl heard the cry of The Man and her eyes filled with tears of joy. “Oh angel, please take care of yourself. God, please strengthen him in his pain.”

“Abaddon,” The Man whispered. “Your head will be the pendant on my necklace of retribution.”

Categories
Featured Horror Mystery and Lore Indie Horror

Punishment for Grave Robbing Epitomized in Short Horror Film, Toe (2020)

The culture of robbing graves isn’t as big of a topic these days as it probably should be, but there is something about the entire topic that is just strangely unsettling. Robbing graves has been and is still a problem that plagues every culture–from the Pharaohs who attempted to take their earthly possessions with them into the next life, to ghost marriages in Chinese culture, there always seems to be a reason why certain people want to disturb the dead, but are there any common themes?

One common theme is the fact that these grave robbers are invading the space of the dead, either to acquire an object that belonged to the deceased or the body of the deceased. Indeed there are varying reasons why a grave robber might disturb those laying in their eternal rest. One strange reason can be credited to the extreme fringe practitioners of Santería, where the corpses of deceased babies and still-born fetuses are excavated and used in ritual magic. While it’s not a common practice, it has reportedly been a problem in regions where the practice of the religion is prevalent.

Curse of the Pharaohs

The tombs inside of the Pyramids have a history of causing people to be uneasy, whether it’s due to the legend of the Curse of the Pharaohs, or the simple fact that it’s a tomb and tombs are just pretty creepy in general. It seems there are many movies about mummies but in the case of ancient Egyptian horror, the true story is often more frightening than the movies have captured.

Cursed be those that disturb the rest of Pharaoh. They that shall break the seal of this tomb shall meet death by a disease which no doctor can diagnose.

Inscription reported to have been carved on an Egyptian royal tomb

There is a lot of history attached to the tombs of the Pharaohs and there is a lot of legend surrounding the so-called curses that befall those who disturb the tombs of these mummified kings of the past. While a curse may seem like a mystical and superstitious method to keep looters and thieves at bay, the Egyptians were famous for placing warnings of curses to ward off these would-be intruders. Those who did not heed the warnings would live a short while to regret their actions.

Ghost Brides Within Chinese Culture

While the practice of trading corpses to use for ritual spirit marriage has been outlawed since 2006 within China, it has led to the uptick of graves being robbed. These robberies aren’t an attempt to find some valuable possession left with the deceased, but to steal the corpse of the deceased itself. In 2015 it was reported that fourteen female corpses had been stolen from their graves to be sold as ghost brides for the ritual ghost marriage practice that is still practiced by some families to this day. For this reason, families of individuals who pass away while single will encase the coffin with cement to make it more difficult or impossible to steal their loved ones from their graves. These robberies continue to plague families of single women who have passed, whose corpses are worth at least $3,000 to the family of a single man who has passed.

ALTER Presents Toe (2020)

One thing that you should do, if you’re a horror lover, is take a look at the animated horror short films that are available on YouTube–they’re not as prevalent as the regular live-action ones, but they’re often spookier and elicit a deeper sense of fear. We highly suggest you take a look at this stop-motion animated short film entitled, Toe which came out a little earlier this month.

This horror short warns us that even starving children are not immune to the punishments that come to those who disturb the graves of the dead.

Categories
Featured Horror Mystery and Lore Indie Horror Indie Horror Creation Lifestyle Short Horror Stories

Puzzle Box Horror Presents – Atlas of Lore #1 Oregon.

Atlas of Lore #1 Oregon cover
Atlas of Lore #1 Oregon

We’re happy to announce we are done with our first publication “Atlas of Lore – Oregon.” In this issue, we have 5 original short horror stories based on Oregon’s haunted lore. We are also including the legends behind the stories in the issue along with original art, photography, articles, and a re-release of an H.P Lovecraft classic short story. If you love ghost stories, lore, and great horror art this is for you. See the trailer below to get an idea of what you are in for.

5 Original Stories From Horror Authors World Wide

Slice – A haunted pizza joint gets terrifying.
When The Bandage Man Finds You – A haunted coastal highway horror story
Anna Byrne Chronicles Chapters 1 and 2 – Anna learns a bit about her father’s paranormal discoveries and encounters her first haunting.
The Haunting of The White Eagle – A tale of paranormal investigators finding what they thought they were looking for.
Rose (graphic short) – Origin story of a famous ghost in a downtown Portland hotel.

Oregon’s Supernatural Lore

The White Eagle Hotel, Heceta Head Lighthouse, Maulers Butte, The Bandage Man of Cannon Beach, UFO’s and many other haunted locations and folklore tales related to Oregon’s supernatural lore.

Re-release of H.P. Lovecraft’s “Nameless City”

Join our email list to get updates on the release and other haunted articles. Order now from our store.

Stories by:

Mary Farnstrom
Tritone

Jon Richter
Tyson Strong
Felipe Kroll

Art and photography by:

Mary Farnstrom
Felipe Kroll
Tritone
MJD

Trailer for the magazine.

Trailer for upcoming publication “Atlas of Lore”

For updates signup on our email list located in the side bar or below.

Categories
Best Horror Books Best Of Featured NA

Puzzle Box Horror’s Best of Sci-Fi Horror Books

While exploring the best of sci-fi horror books we traveled as far back as 1818 and well into the future. Stories set in the speculative genre known as science fiction have always had a thrill and a sense of wonder about them. Technological advancements, adventures on alien worlds or deep below sea, life-altering discoveries – all aspects that incite excitement in the reader. And yet there are some stories that eschew the glossy-eyed outlook and choose to peer into the darker side of it all. What if those technological advancements come at a high moral price? What if those alien planets hold unfathomable dangers? And what if those discoveries alter life in a way that dismantles the construct of our humanity? 

There are many science fiction authors who occasionally dwell on the negative consequences of mankind’s headlong rush into the future. Sci-fi greats like Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, and many others write stories that have a darker side to them. But here at Puzzle Box Horror we lean heavy into the horror side of things, and so in creating this list we sought out books that have sci-fi trappings while also being downright terrifying. The genres of science fiction and horror have many base similarities, and it’s our belief that tales that blend the best of both worlds are pretty much perfect. Read on to see our selection of the very best sci-fi horror books!

Hell on Mars by J.Z. Foster and Justin Woodward (2020)

Hell on Mars Sci-fi horror book

Scientists have been working for years on a secret project at the Mars Felicity Station. Something to do with opening a gateway to another dimension. Suddenly communications with earth are cut and the station goes dark. The US sends a crew in to investigate, but they are completely unprepared for what they find. What starts as a routine investigative mission turns into war with a new terrifying enemy and a high-stakes fight for survival.

The story follows the crew of the Perihelion as they journey towards the space station. We learn about the characters and their personality quirks, but the closer they get to Mars the more the dread begins to mount. When they arrive building suspense bursts vividly into nightmarish horror. Mixing the fast-paced action of Doom, the grotesque creatures of Dead Space, and the cosmic horror of Event Horizon, Hell on Mars is a gory good time and the first book in what is sure to be an exciting series. An immediate addition to our best of sci-fi horror books list.

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling (2019)

The Luminous Dead Sci-Fi Horror Book

Abandoned and alone on a remote planet, Gyre Price descends deeper into the cave. She’s lied about having cave-diving experience, hoping the paycheck from the expedition will be enough to cover any incidents that may happen. Her only connection to the outside world is her handler Em, who controls her body suit from the safety of the surface. Unfortunately, Em is both mysterious and dangerous, and she has her own dark plans for Gyre.

The Luminous Dead is a tense, claustrophobic and psychological thriller. Considering the limited setting, essentially just two characters in a mine, it’s amazing the levels of emotion and suspense author Caitlin Starling is able to provide. Both characters have secrets and ulterior motives, keeping readers guessing as to where each new revelation will lead. While the pace plods some it’s never boring, and it’s punctuated with some truly gruesome and terrifying moments. 

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (2014)

Annihilation book cover

This Nebula award-winning book is about a group of female scientists on a mission to explore a place that’s mysteriously appeared on earth known as Area X. There have been numerous previous missions, all met with disastrous results, insanity, and death.This group of women, whose story is narrated by the biologist, are tasked with exploring the area and avoiding contamination. No matter what they expected to happen after crossing the border, what actually transpires is beyond their wildest imaginations.

Annihilation is a bizarre story of psychological terror and cosmic dread. There’s no way to adequately prepare yourself for the strange events that will unfold. The four women are trying to survive in a land that is actively trying to hurt them, but their own secrets and duplicity might just be the thing that tears them apart. The book deals with big questions on life and identity, while mixing weird eco-horror with a healthy dose of cosmic horror in the second half.

Infected by Scott Sigler (2008)

Infected horror book cover

A mysterious bioengineered parasite is spreading disease across America, turning the infected into deranged and bloodthirsty murderers. This sci-fi horror story is told mainly from three different perspectives. First, there’s the secret CIA agent Drew Phillips who is searching the country for a victim that’s still alive. Second, there’s the CDC epidemiologist Magaret Montoya who is racing to better understand the disease. And finally, there’s the desk jockey Perry Dawsey who is infected and must fight against his own body to survive. Infected is a glorious combination of gore and thrills that manages to blend nauseating pulp and smart storytelling.

Blindsight by Peter Watts (2006)

Blind Sight Sci-fi horror book

In the near future, a space probe happens to pick up transmissions from a distant alien spaceship. Something is whispering in a strange tongue. An unusual crew is thrown together to go investigate the signals: a warrior who wants peace, a biologist entwined with machinery, a linguist with multiple-personality disorder, and a vampire exhumed by paleogenetic witchcraft. This ragtag group boards the alien ship and what begins as a routine investigation quickly devolves into an unnerving series of discoveries. A heady horror sci-fi adventure, Blindsight blends unforgettable images with philosophical inquiries about communication, consciousness, and what it means to be alive.

Ship of Fools by Richard Paul Russo (2001)

Ship of Fools Sci-fi horror book

Thousands of humans have been living on the spaceship Argonos for several generations, traversing the galaxy in search of other life. Suddenly an unknown transmission captures their attention and leads them to a mysterious yet habitable planet. The planet, named Antioch by the crew, is barren but a group decides to go exploring anyway. They are tired from their aimless wandering of the stars, and they yearn for a new home. Unfortunately, there’s more to this planet than first meets the eye. Ship of Fools engages readers with strong character studies while also striking fear into their hearts as the crew begins to unravel into madness.

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison (1967)

I have no mouth and I must scream Sci-fi horror book cover

This collection features seven short stories by science fiction great Harlan Ellison, but it’s the titular tale that has captivated and terrified audiences the most over the decades. In this story, a post-apocalyptic future finds a small group of five people struggling for survival. Human warfare has wiped out most of the population, and now a malicious supercomputer powered by artificial intelligence has imprisoned the remaining few. They are kept alive only to be brutally tortured by the sadistic machine. It’s a disturbingly inventive story, and one that helped create the “A.I. nemesis” trope in the sci-fi horror that followed.

The stories that appear in this collection are:

  • “I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream”
  • “Big Sam Was My Friend”
  • “Eyes of Dust”
  • “World of the Myth”
  • “Lonelyache”
  • “Delusion for Dragonslayer”
  • “Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes”

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (1951)

The day of the triffids Sci-fi horror book cover

A spectacular shower of comets blinds most of the world’s population, leaving those few left with sight to battle a race of giant, mobile, flesh-eating plants known as Triffids. As society crumbles, our two main characters Bill and Josella, along with a band of other survivors, must find a way to avoid the poisonous stingers of these assailants and rebuild what they can of civilization. Written during a time of Cold War paranoia, The Day of the Triffids anticipates weapons of mass destruction and biological warfare. Not only did the book help popularize the post-apocalyptic genre, but it remains to this day a staple in the sci-fi horror genre overall.

Who Goes There? By John W Campell (1938)

Who goes there Sci-fi horror book cover

Scientists at a research camp in Antarctica have discovered a frozen alien form that appears to have crash-landed there a long time ago. Misguided by their excitement, the researchers decide to thaw the creature and chaos quickly ensues. The being they have revived can transform itself to look like both humans and animals, and it’s using its shape-shifting abilities to pick them off one by one. Now this paranoid band of men must struggle to survive against a foe who can present itself as a friend. Though this story is better known as the 1982 John Carpenter film The Thing (plus various other movie remakes), it’s interesting to go back and look at the sci-fi horror novella that started it all.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)

Frankenstein Sci-fi horror book

At this point everyone is familiar with Mary Shelley’s story of Dr. Frankenstein and the reanimated being he assembles. Written centuries ago, this story has spawned countless iterations and made Frankenstein’s monster a pop culture horror icon. Though the book features a mad scientist and explores early on the methods used to reinvigorate life, a large part of it focuses on the humanity of the monster and the inhumanity of those around him. While it doesn’t fall into the horror genre quite as squarely as other entries on this list (though there are plenty of horrifying moments), it’s influence on the genre should not be neglected. Frankenstein is definitely one of the best sci-fi horror books of all times in it’s own right.