It is my pleasure to welcome writer SS Hampton to the blog today! I read his story, The Lapis Lazuli Throne, and I really enjoyed it. Horror and suspense are mixed with grim reality. Now, here’s more from SS on Halloween and one of his books.
Fall. Fall leads into Halloween.
The days grow cooler and shorter. The clouds are grayer, and the full moon hangs in the night sky like a silent, all-knowing observer. Tree leaves change color and drift with the wind, or tumble noisily along the chill ground. The silent trees take on a skeletal appearance, harbingers of that vestige of the mysterious, haunted past cloaked in the modern word, “Halloween.”
Today Halloween is an unofficial holiday when youngsters traipse in costumes through the streets with all manner of goodie bags, wind their way among flaming eyed jack-o-lanterns, and knock on doors with a cheerful, “Trick or treat!” And for the older celebrants, there’s wild, sometimes erotic costumes, good drinks, and good food at Halloween parties—sometimes followed by more delectable treats after the party, all to the musical accompaniment of Gareth Williams’ “Halloween – Main Theme.”
Yes, Halloween has something for everyone. It always has. It always will. It has haunted graveyards, ghosts, spirits, warlocks, witches riding broomsticks, headless horsemen, devils, imps, goblins, even—more darkly to some puritan natures—succubi and incubi.
But suppose there’s something to all of this? After all, if you dig deep enough into myth and legend, there’s usually a kernel of truth buried somewhere. Even—in a world where science has explanations for everything—a sometimes inconvenient truth.
So, maybe there is one time of the year when an unknown, long-forgotten doorway creaks open just a hair. What might creep through that opening? Would you see it and recognize it as something horrific? Or perhaps it’s unseen. Maybe it’s hovering nearby, recognized only by a cold chill down your spine, or the hair suddenly standing up on the back of your neck. You have an urge to look over your shoulder, but you hesitate because your gut feeling tells you not to do that. Or, maybe you smell something unpleasant in the air. It lingers for an awful moment, then it’s gone, and your legs tremble because something terrible had just passed you by. Perhaps you’re walking through a quiet building, and you think you hear footsteps behind you. But there’s nothing there.
And that’s in the daylight! After all, time and place may not be the same to other…things.
So, when the afternoon grows darker and the air chillier on Halloween, pay careful attention to your surroundings. Perhaps you might see something in the shadows—just a tiny movement that betrays a silent presence. Or maybe someone (something) is looking at you in a peculiar way, as if studying you, or assessing you.
As the afternoon shadows lengthen, and brittle tree leaves tumble past you within the grip of a cold breeze, you never know what you might encounter. You might even run into something unknown cloaked within the disarming anonymity of an ordinary person that looks like you and I. Then, you might just have enough time to scream.
Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy
“An Appointment in the Village Bazaar.” Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper Anthology. Ed. Nancy Kilpatrick. Edge SF & Fantasy, Forthcoming October 2012.
EXCERPT: “We isn’t in fuckin’ Kansas no more,” Sergeant First Class Robert “Chief” Nottingham, a half-Cheyenne Indian, chuckled from behind his dark ballistic eyeglasses and a puff of sulfurous smelling cigarette smoke, as Sergeant Caleb Justus staggered up the steep trail. Caleb stopped when he saw the rolling, rocky landscape of a thin forest with broken and splintered trees. Visible beyond the trees was a ruined village nestled below a low gray rise littered with skeletal trees. A chill wind moaned across the rugged, haunting landscape.
Behind them, such a deep contrast to the land before them, the valley they emerged from was a lush garden of green grass, brush, and trees.
“No shit,” Caleb, who usually didn’t swear, gasped as sweat, mingled with the cold thin drizzle that fell from gray clouds, trickled down his face. The platoon spread out and eyed an ancient narrow trail that wound through the trees to a wide, rutted path that led to the village.
As the soldiers slipped through the trees, Caleb thought they resembled unearthly creatures moving through a blighted medieval landscape; each wore a camouflaged Kevlar helmet, Individual Body Armor weighted down with heavy ammunition magazines, first aid kits and combat knives, and grayish-green Army Combat Uniforms with dark elbow and knee pads. Each wore the trademark dark ballistic eyeglasses that hid the eyes and gave the impression of emotionless, less than human faces. They carried M4 Carbines with Close Combat Opticals, M249 Light Machine Guns, and M203s, a 40mm grenade launcher mounted under an M4.
He knew that in their minds, and in reality, they were the meanest SOBs in the valley, or any valley. He felt safe in their presence. It was a much needed feeling after almost being killed by an Improvised Explosive Device three days before.
“Don’t know how much drawing you’ll get done on a shitty day like this,” Chief commented as he ground the cigarette under his boot heel.
“That’s why I brought my Nikon,” Caleb patted a black bag nestled against the side of his IBA and first aid kit. His drawing kit dangled against his right hip, just above his holstered 9mm pistol. “If I have to I’ll take photos, maybe do some color pencil drawings…”
An Appointment in the Village Bazaar
SS Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 grandchildren, and a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007). He served in the active duty Army (1974-1985), the Army Individual Ready Reserve (1985-1995) (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War), and enlisted in the Army National Guard in October 2004; he was mobilized for active duty for almost three years after his enlistment. He continues to serve in the Guard, where he holds the rank of staff sergeant. He is a published photographer and photojournalist, an aspiring painter, and is studying for a degree in anthropology—hopefully to someday work in underwater archaeology. He has wanted to be a writer since he was 15 years old; his first short story was published in 1992, after which it wasn’t until 2001 that another short story was published. His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy (forthcoming), Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, Ruthie’s Club, Lucrezia Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others. As of December 2011, he became the latest homeless Iraq war veteran in Las Vegas, Nevada.