A Gothic, Cosmic, and Psychological Lifetime of Horror: The 16 Greatest Short Stories from Robert Bloch

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Featured Horror Books Horror Mystery and Lore

Robert Bloch wrote literature that ranged from the psychologically terrifying to the downright “weird” horror; his inspiration stemmed both from watching his first scary film on his own as a child—and his subsequent nightmares—and his admiration for the stylistic horror of H.P. Lovecraft. His stories, however, are and always will be uniquely Robert Bloch, a genius in psychological horror with a splash of the supernatural. His deep interest in serial killers brought back anti-heroes like Norman Bates and Jack the Ripper.

“The Shambler From The Stars” (1935)

This particular short story first appeared in the September issue of Weird Tales, in 1935—later on, it was included as a part of his first published book, The Opener of the Way (1945). It was one of the many works that bore the influence of H.P. Lovecraft and can be considered part of the genre of cosmic horror. More than just another author following the footsteps of Lovecraft, Bloch still included elements of Lovecraftian influence, such as the inclusion of The Necronomicon, and The Book of Eibon. Deliciously self-indulgent, Bloch’s story is about a writer of weird fiction obsessed with learning all things occult when he looks to find the aforementioned esoteric tomes of forbidden knowledge. As we all know when it comes to Eldritch cosmic horror, this writer inevitably summons something disastrous.

“The Secret in the Tomb” (1935)

Another instance of cosmic horror in the early days of Bloch’s writing career, it has been compared directly to the stylistic literature of the father of cosmic horror himself—to the point that, if the author of this had been unknown, it would have been assumed to have been a product of Lovecraft. This dark, dank tale of eldritch horror and dread is lurking, just beyond sight, and awaiting the arrival of the last descendant of a long line of sorcerers.

“The Mannikin” (1937)

Another Weird Tales original, published in the April edition in 1937, we get a tale of a strange reclusive and a disfigured, hunchbacked man named Simon, whom the locals all despise. As a short story, of course, it doesn’t take long to find that this cosmic horror is based all around the diabolical hump on Simon’s back—just wait until you find out what the hump really is.

“The Sorcerer’s Jewel” (1939)

This is a story that Bloch originally published under the pen name Tarleton Fiske in Strange Stories Magazine, in 1939; in this story we see a similarity to “A Shambler in the Stars” when we follow a photographer who takes incredibly bizarre photos as his life’s passion. While he doesn’t believe in the occult, his assistant happens to be a devotee of a peculiar occult practice and everything changes when the photographer is brought an ancient jewel.

“Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper” (1943)

Over the years, Robert Bloch’s short story “Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper” has been adapted to various mediums following its publication—the story is about a man from Chicago who is approached by a gentleman from England who tells him that he’s looking for Jack the Ripper. This, of course, is strange on its own as the infamous serial killer should have died years before. The Englishman believes that Jack the Ripper has become immortal through occult means and that his serial murders are actually ritual sacrifices that restore his youth. The man from Chicago is enlisted to help to bring the Ripper to light.

“Satan’s Phonograph” (1946)

A slow burn for a short story, this haunting tale follows the narrator down memory lane as he tells the reader about the ingenious, but wildly mad piano teacher that helped him to reach Carnegie Hall—but when the pupil returns from his tours across Europe with his new wife in tow, he finds that his old teacher had been institutionalized—when his insane old teacher shows up in his house with a seemingly innocent phonograph and his wild theories, the narrator believes his teacher is simply delusional.

“Sweets To The Sweet” (1947)

Bloch spins the thread of a sinister six-year-old girl, following the narrative of the housekeeper as she speaks to her former boss’s brother, who happens to be a lawyer. The housekeeper encourages the lawyer to look into what she believes to be a brutally abusive situation between father and daughter. She tells the brother about all of the signs of alcoholism and beatings, while the child is accused of witchcraft. When the lawyer finally goes to investigate what is happening in his brother’s home, he finds out that the truth may be more disturbing than he expects.

“Floral Tribute” (1949)

An eerie tale of a young boy being raised by his grandmother brings her fresh flowers home every day—it’s not until the inhabitants of the local cemetery come to speak with the grandmother that she finds out that he has been taking them from the graves of the nearby graveyard, where he plays among the tombstones.

“The Shadow From The Steeple” (1950)

Yet another story based in the Lovecraft universe, Bloch starts the story off with the friend of a character Lovecraft had killed in his short story “The Haunter in the Dark” whom Lovecraft had modeled after Bloch himself. A convoluted and dark fictional tale based on Lovecraft and his circle of writers, we get to see the authors appearing as characters of their own making. As another story within the Cthulhu Mythos, we see how involved Bloch was still within the Lovefcraft style even at this point in his career.

“Head Man” (1950)

An interesting spin on Nazi Germany’s obsession with the occult and paranormal, a SS executioner puts everything on the line to keep possession of the heads of a man and woman who had been charged with witchcraft and executed as a result.

“The Hungry House” (1951)

A tale that will once again make you fear your own reflection in a mirror; “The Hungry House” takes place after a couple moves into their new home. As they try to get comfortable in their new house they begin to see spooky inexplicable reflections around the house and dismiss it as being an overactive imagination. It’s not until the husband finds the locked closet in the attic that they realize something is incredibly wrong with their house—in it are all of the mirrors that the previous owners had removed from the walls of the house.

“Notebook Found in an Abandoned House” (1951)

This story is told from a notebook found in an abandoned house, which was written by a twelve-year-old boy by the name of Willy Osborne who is trapped within the house by the sinister beasts, or “them ones,” that stalk him from within the woods and swamps that surround the house. “Them ones,” that Willy is scared might come and get him are monstrous, Lovecraftian elder creatures who used to be take sacrifices to be appeased.

“The Light-House” (1953)

This particular short story took special influence from a story that Edgar Allan Poe began before his death in 1849, but was never able to finish; in 1953 Bloch took this unfinished short story, finished it, polished it up, and then had it published. As such, it is considered a posthumous collaboration. It follows the pursuits of a nobleman who takes a job as a lighthouse keeper, so he may write in solitude. His loneliness gets the better of him in this weird and satisfyingly dark tale, when he tries to psychically summon a companion.

“House of the Hatchet” (1955)

A couple with a relationship on the rocks decides to take their a second honeymoon on the road—on their trip they end up stopping at a haunted tourist attraction, where the story goes that a husband had killed his wife with a hatchet in one of the rooms. When they decided to take a tour of this haunted house, the husband begins to feel a heavy dark presence in the room where the murder was said to have occurred…

“Terror In Cut Throat Cove” (1958)

Considered a horror adventure tale, “Terror In Cut Throat Cove” follows the tale of an American writer who is approached by a treasure-hunting duo; they end up recruiting him to help them locate this long-lost legendary ship that sunk with a massive fortune aboard because the writer has an undeniable fondness for the girlfriend of the treasure hunter. A crazy adventure ensues until they find the ship and one of the divers returns from the ship’s wreckage without his head.

“The Animal Fair” (1971)

This story of a drifter who ends up in the small town of Medley, Oklahoma while the carnival is in town—where he enters the a tent that houses a gorilla who happens to be the main attraction—not to mention seriously abused by his trainer. This horrifying weird tale ends in a shocking twist and is well worth the read.

Works Cited:

Cowan, Matt. “FIFTEEN HORROR TALES BY ROBERT BLOCH.” Horror Delve, 4 Apr. 2016, horrordelve.com/2016/04/04/robert-bloch/.

HorrorBabble. “The Shambler from the Stars” by Robert Bloch. Youtube/”The Shambler from the Stars” by Robert Bloch, HorrorBabble, 12 Mar. 2018, youtu.be/0Q6xA0f9SNk.

HorrorBabble. “The Secret in the Tomb” by Robert Bloch. Youtube/”The Secret in the Tomb” by Robert Bloch, HorrorBabble, 20 Aug. 2018, youtu.be/vodqchPxgCoyoutu.be/vodqchPxgCo.

Thomas, G. W. “The Early Robert Bloch.” Dark Worlds Quarterly, 6 Aug. 2020, darkworldsquarterly.gwthomas.org/the-early-robert-bloch/.

Fight For Your Life

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Featured Indie Horror Short Horror Stories
Photography by Adam Wilson
Photography by Adam Wilson

Fight if that’s necessary, but run if you can, just so long as you run together. The words of Louis L’Amour echoed in her mind, she had lost so many companions already, it felt like a bad joke. She wiped the residue from her sweaty face with her charred sleeve, there was heat radiating from the building that lay in fiery ruin in front of her. She was alone now. Who could have known the only thing that would kill the creatures was immense heat? Their dying screeches echoed in the night air, but to Jenna, it was a pleasant sound, a sound that meant that sometime—maybe in the near future—that she might be able to sleep through the night without a white-knuckled grasp on her knife. She stood there in careful contemplation, the glow of the fire reflected off of the sweat that crept down her forehead, the light from the fire and the creatures’ screams were likely to bring more of them around and the last thing she needed was to have to blow up another building.

Jenna tucked her lighter back into her jeans pocket and tugged on her ponytail to make sure it was still tight, tied her loose boot laces and slung her bag back over her shoulder. If she could make it to the edge of the forest, she was sure she would be safe for the night. She turned her back to the rubble behind her and squinted into the dark, the tree-line wasn’t too far away—maybe a five-minute jog. Her heart was still racing with adrenaline, so she hopped down from her perch and took advantage of the high. Running into another one of them didn’t even cross her mind, but all the same, her hand was never more than a few inches away from the handle of her knife as she moved briskly through the remnants of the town of her childhood.

She was near to the old gas station when a motion sensor light went off across the street—her breath caught in her throat and she was thankful that her boots hit the wet pavement softly. She ducked behind a gas pump that was out of commission, her eyes were wide as she stared at the hideous creature that was now attacking the bright light above it. It let out a ghastly screech then there was a shatter when the glass hit the ground and the sound resonated throughout the now abandoned main street. She heard a clatter in the alley behind the gas station and she drew her body in as if trying to make her body as small as possible. Her body was glued to the gas pump, shaking as she drew in shallow breaths, trying to not make a sound in the darkness that now consumed her. Heavy thumps against the pavement were all around her, the handle of her knife in her clammy hand was slick with sweat. The adrenaline once again pulsed throughout her body, she readied herself to run when the gas pump was ripped out from behind her, the sound of metal hitting the ground barely noticeable over her own screams as three creatures overtook her.

Originally published on the Official Blog of Mary Farnstrom.

Gretel & Hansel (2020), a Grimm Fairy Tale

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Featured Horror Mystery and Lore
Creepy Foggy Forest
Photography by Silvana Amicone

Folklore has an extended history of portraying witches as evil, human-sacrificing, child-eating monsters–and for with all of the religious turmoil and economic insecurity that these stories sprang from it’s no wonder. Hansel and Gretel are no different, in fact, it may be the most telling story of them all; for the real evil lies not within the woods, but in the home from which Hansel and Gretel are inevitably turned out.

The Origin of Hansel and Gretel

The original tale of Hansel and Gretel, like many tales that came before literacy and written record was a tale passed down through verbal methods–if you grew up having fairy tales read to you, then you’re probably familiar with the tale of these two siblings. Two children lost in the woods, a trail of breadcrumbs, and a cottage made out of delicious sweets. A wicked witch traps the siblings, intending to eat them, but they trick her, narrowly escape with their lives, and make it back home to their father.

Hansel & Gretel at the Witch's House
Hansel & Gretel at the Witch’s House

While the story doesn’t give us an exact date of when the story was to have taken place, the Brothers Grimm recorded and published the first printed version in 1812, but the story has roots that show it existed in oral traditions for hundreds of years prior. There are theories that date this tale back to the famine that ravaged Europe during the 1300s, which would place the origin somewhere during the Medieval era. The key-point of the story is that the family of Hansel and Gretel are on the brink of starvation–there is so little that the story suggests that their father’s wife, referenced as the children’s stepmother, would rather sacrifice the lives of the children than go without herself.

Survival is the name of the game–this developed the mood of scarcity, gumption, and the bond between siblings. Their family must survive the famine, then the siblings must survive the parents, as well as the hardships of the woods, not to mention the witch herself. It’s easy to overlook the sinister nature of all of these aspects of the tale as soon as there is mention of a cottage made out of candy and sweets. That is the one part of the tale that plants this story firmly into the category of fairy tale, because even though witches may be no stranger to fictional tales, we know all too well that humans can do awful things to one another, including abandoning their children for selfish reasons.

Giving Folklore New Life

Gretel & Hansel (2020) Movie Poster
Gretel & Hansel (2020) Movie Poster

From the origins of Hansel and Gretel, to this newest take on its adaptation to film, the director Osgood Perkins did a wonderful job in honoring the roots of this fairy tale, while also making it unique, visually tantalizing, as well a tasteful combination between the old and the modern. Since he originally made his debut as a horror writer/director with a beautifully tragic and superbly horrific possession film entitled The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015), Perkins has given us a fresh perspective on what we should expect from horror. His movies are particularly dark and dreary, the hauntingly realistic settings in which he places his characters bring a dramatic, eerie, slowness that takes you through someone’s story, instead of rushing you to the end. Just like with his first true horror success, Gretel & Hansel (2020) takes us on a journey upon which we are allowed to savor the terrifying circumstances our protagonists take.

If you noticed the glaring differences between the folklore and this new film adaptation, you’re not the only one–the most obvious of which is the age of the siblings. In the original folklore they’re either portrayed as twins, or as an older brother/younger sister pair, but here we see Gretel as the big protective sister. This change is captivating as it gave us Sophia Lillis exploring her talents for horror again after she brought us It (2017) as well as It: Chapter Two (2019) as Beverly Marsh–the sole girl “loser” in an otherwise boys-only club. Suffice it to say Lillis is exceptional in both her role as Beverly and now as Gretel.

It’s not like there haven’t been multiple attempts to capture the original story on film, but it seems like any film that ventured to capture the dark and terrible nature of this tale of caution have all been conveyed with too much of a sense of fantasy and not with the reality with which it was treated in this newest adaptation.

Long live Gretel the Good.

Gretel & Hansel IMDB Listing

Novels, Television, and Film Adaptations of Robert Bloch

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Featured Horror Books Horror Mystery and Lore Scary Movies and Series

From the past articles in which we have discussed Robert Bloch and his creative works within the horror genre, we decided to talk a little bit about his most famous novels, especially Psycho, the film that almost overnight made Bloch a writing sensation.

The Scarf (1947)

The Scarf (1947) by Robert Bloch
The Scarf (1947) by Robert Bloch

This novel was originally published twelve years before Bloch’s most famous work, Psycho (1960) and while it was originally published without much publicity and was largely ignored for years, it along with Bloch’s other older works started to receive more notice after Hitchcock adapted Psycho to the big screen. Once Bloch’s work received such critical acclaim, his other less popular works began to gain some popularity as well. These other works tend to still be less popular and while they were all well-written, most were unfortunately as forgettable as they come. The Scarf, despite being one of Bloch’s best novels is somehow still one of his forgotten novels.

When we look at The Scarf we see a story about Daniel Morley, a man who admits to having a fetish for a certain scar he wears all the time. According to our strange narrator, Morley received this scarf as a gift from his high school English teacher; in a strange turn of events, this teacher attempted to rape Morley and whom Morley killed in alleged self-defense.

We eventually see Morley as somewhat of a wandering vagrant, one who commits small crimes to get by—and then also there’s the women he murders with.. the scarf.

Psycho (1959) by Robert Bloch
Psycho (1959) by Robert Bloch

Psycho (1959)

For those who have been, somehow, untouched by Bloch’s infamous novel Psycho (1959) this synopsis might be somewhat of a spoiler—but that doesn’t mean you can get away with not reading the book, watching the movie, or checking out the television series inspired by the original novel!

Within the story proposed by Bloch in this psychological thriller, we meet Norman Bates, a middle-aged bachelor who is mentally dominated by his mother—a puritanical, mean-spirited woman who prevents Norman from having any kind of normal life outside of taking care of her and the motel they run together in the small town of Fairville. Unfortunately, since the state relocated the highway, Norman and his mother have been struggling to maintain their business which at one point had been a fairly busy highway adjacent place for people to stop for the night.

Enter Mary Crane, an impulsive woman who, after stealing $40,000 from one of her real estate clients, is on the run from the law. Mary arrives just when Norman and his mother are in a heated argument and as the situation progresses, Mary is under the impression that Norman’s mother would benefit from a mental hospital. Norman denies that there is anything wrong with her, suggesting that, “we all go a little mad sometimes.” After finishing her dinner with Norman, Mary returns to her room having decided to return the money she stole and face the consequences so she doesn’t end up like Norman and his mother, but in an unforeseen change in circumstance, while Mary is taking a shower, a figure that looks like an old woman ambushes Mary and beheads her for her offenses.

Norman, who had passed out drunk after dinner finds Mary’s bloody corpse and is instantly convinced his mother murdered their customer—briefly considering letting his mother go to prison, he instead decides to get rid of the body and dispose of Mary’s belongings in a swamp before returning to life as usual. Mary’s fiance catches wind of her disappearance through Mary’s sister, who with the help of a private investigator hired by Mary’s employer, begin the search for her together. Arbogast, the private investigator, is eventually led to the Bates Motel where he questions Norman about Mary—Norman of course lies, telling Arbogast that Mary had only stayed for one night and left. Wanting to cover his bases, Arbogast asks to speak with Norman’s mother, but Norman refuses and by doing so, rouses Arbogast’s suspicion. The mystery continues and what awaits those searching for Mary Crane turns into a psychological thriller that goes beyond the standard criminal mind—who could have known that Norman Bates was such a pscyho?

Psycho (1960) Adaptation into Film

Immediately after publishing, Bloch was made an offer for the film rights to the book that put him on the map, it wasn’t until well after the rights were purchased that Bloch found out the person who purchased them was actually Alfred Hitchcock. We discuss more of the surrounding details in our article Robert Bloch: The Man Who Brought Us Psycho.

Psycho (1998) Remake

Bates Motel (2013-2017)

A disturbing and driving force of psychological horror, Carlton Cuse and A&E provided a reimagined version of Bloch’s original creation, having a more in-depth backstory and an interesting narrative and twist on dissociative personality disorder and how the extremes of such could result in such a violent psychological break even from someone who was at first depicted as being so docile and sweet.

Works Cited

Bloch, Robert. Psycho. Blackstone Audio, Inc., 1959.

Bloch, Robert. The Scarf. Dial Press, 1947.

Cuse, Carlton. Bates Motel, A&E, 2013.

Sergio. “THE SCARF (1947 / 1966) by Robert Bloch.” Tipping My Fedora, 13 May 2012, bloodymurder.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/the-scarf-1947-by-robert-bloch/.

Van Sant, Gus, director. Psycho, Universal Pictures, 1998.

Phantom War Part 2: The Monsters

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

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.”