Has their ever been an urban legend that made you think twice?
Sirens Call Publications has recently released Legends of Urban Horror: A Friend of a Friend Told Me and as a special treat for each of you, we’ve asked the authors to provide us with a few words on the inspirations to their stories. Today we are joined by Matthew Borgard who contributed his story The Bridesmaid to this anthology of ten fantastically chilling tales.
Matthew Borgard is a software engineer living in Austin, TX with 1 cat and 1 wife. He’s been writing his whole life, and is still not entirely convinced the writers of The Nightmare Before Christmas didn’t steal the film’s plot from his elementary school notebooks. He enjoys reading, writing and partaking in video games, and does not enjoy that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to do all three simultaneously. His stories have appeared in multiple anthologies, including “Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations” and “Timeless.” Visit him at matthewborgard.com. You can also connect with Matthew on Facebook and Google+.
And now for Matthew’s inspiration…
Fear in the Age of the Interwebs
I’ve never been afraid of vampires. Or zombies, or ghosts, or werewolves, or alien probes. That’s not to say those things can’t be interesting (especially the alien probes!), but they’re too far removed from reality to infuse me with that deep, visceral fear we’ve all felt from time to time. And that’s probably a good thing – that sort of reaction would make enjoying True Blood a helluva lot more difficult.
No, what scares me is much more mundane. Murderers. Diseases. Car accidents. And creepy-as-hell websites. And yes, there are enough of those to officially qualify as a category.
Most of them are clearly forms of viral advertisements, often games, and while these elicit a ‘woah, weird!’ factor, the ones that really freak me out are the ones without any clear motivation. It plays on the same fear of the unknown that makes number stations (radio signals that simply repeat a series of numbers or beeps in perpetuity) so creepy. I understand vampires and zombies. To a certain extent, I even understand murderers and diseases. But the information superhighway is vast and occasionally anonymous. What might be a joke could also be the ramblings of a paranoid schizophrenic. And that’s terrifying.
A great example, hailing from the early days of the web, is Zombo.com. It’s simply a flash animation of a few bright circles, with a voice repeating platitudes such as “Welcome to Zombo Com!” Nothing happens. Ever. But like the aforementioned numbers stations, it causes our minds to reel with thoughts about the intentions of the creator. Is it some sort of “all-clear” message to an embedded spy? Will it one day, with no warning, spit out a different message? Or is it just a parody? You’ll never know.
Timecube.com is a more modern example of the creepy website, and it definitely falls under the “paranoid ramblings” subhead. A massive, sprawling website filled with universal truths like “Apply analytical math to Earth sphere and discover 2 opposite hemispheres rotating in opposite directions – equal to a ZERO value existence,” in various fonts, colors and sizes, Timecube gives us a peek inside the human mind we never really wanted to see.
And finally, there’s the inspiration for my story, The Bridesmaid. My favorite of the creepy websites, and a definite contender for my favorite website of all time: Yvette’s Bridal Formal. Unfortunately, the original site no longer exists, but some kind soul uploaded a mirror at http://seanterrencebest.p1r8.net/, proof of a loving god if there ever was any.
It starts out strange, but innocuous: a website for a bridal store containing the most gaudy, awful web design you’ve ever seen. Imagine every single Geocities page from 1997 devoured by a goblin, regurgitated and thrown into a wedding dress, and you’ll start to come close. Indeed, I’ve seen this featured on the top of many “Worst Web Design Ever!” lists, with nary a mention of anything but poor taste in font choice and gif management. But it’s only when you click the links — when you fall down the rabbit hole — that stuff gets … weird.
Go far enough, and you’ll encounter a page with a horrifying sketch of a screaming woman accompanied by the message “They are here !! ~* They move among us !! ~*~*~* the person you are sitting next to at this very moment could be one of Them in disguise !! ~*TRUST NO ONE.” Going further will bring you pages full of ramblings about alien abductions, witch trials, demons, and oh-my-god, that single sketch of the screaming woman is now the tiled background to the website, and there’s an embedded MIDI playing maddening music on an endless loop.
It’s at this point that I’d like to remind you that this is a real website for a real bridal store that exists (or existed — Google claims it went out of business) in Panama City, Florida. You could really call them. You could really visit, and you could really buy a bridesmaid’s dress or rent a tuxedo there. While that seems like the least horrific detail about the entire thing, that’s pretty much proof that it’s not a prank or an ad for Halo.
In true urban legend style, internet denizens have passed along tales. Supposedly, some 4chan fellows hit up the store to confirm that it did, in fact, exist. When they asked about the website, the store owner quickly shouted at them and kicked them out of the store. What. The. Hell.
I encourage you to go check the website out, before or after you read the story. Like a great magic trick, knowing what to expect doesn’t extinguish the mystique. The Bridesmaid plays with a Yvette-inspired website and comes to a (quasi-) concrete conclusion about the forces behind it. But the scariest thing of all is that, for the real website, we’ll never really know for sure.
Legends of Urban Horror: A Friend of a Friend Told Me
We’ve all come across them. The warnings told by a friend of a friend – don’t go in there, I wouldn’t if I were you, did you hear about…? Or perhaps your mind leaps to the cryptozoological realm – creatures barely glimpsed, and yet to be identified. Other spheres of existence – they can’t be real… certainly not until you’ve experienced one!
Maybe the real horror lies in the minds and hearts of others just like you. People with a slightly bent perspective that feed on the fear in others. Twisted souls that would take advantage of the weak, or vulnerable. Those who believe they are doing good for a higher power, or to gain power simply for themselves. Petty vengeance that breathes a life of its own once unleashed.
Whatever your poison, the ten stories in Legends of Urban Horror: A Friend of a Friend Told Me are sure to intrigue, and perhaps bring back fears long forgotten.
Run, don’t look back… or should you?
Contributing Authors include:
Morgan Bauman, Kimberly A, Bettes, Matthew Borgard, Alex Chase, Austin Fikac, K. Trap Jones, Sean Keller, Lisamarie Lamb, Jon Olson, C.M. Saunders
Interested in Purchasing a copy?
Amazon: US, UK, Canada, Japan, Germany, Brazil, India, France, Spain, Italy
CreateSpace (Print), Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple
And now for a quick excerpt from Matthew’s story The Bridesmaid in Legends of Urban Horror: A Friend of a Friend Told Me…
I flip to the last page of the catalog and toss it across the room, aiming for the countertop nearest my seat on the couch. I miss. Emily sighs, bends over and picks it up, tapping the long, pink nails on her other hand against the Formica. “You have to pick something.”
“It’s all shit,” I reply, and it is. Twenty goddamn pages of designer bridesmaids dresses. Twenty pages of revolting, overpriced schlock. “Why can’t Gabby just choose something for us?”
“It’s supposed to be a favor she’s granting us,” Emily says.
“I’ll grant her a favor. Just pick something. I don’t even care anymore.”
“Don’t be dramatic,” Emily says, rounding the counter to toss the catalog in the garbage. “Hey, why don’t we just go to a store, find something and be done with it? It’ll take like an hour. We won’t walk out until we pick something.”
As terrible an experience as that sounds, I have to admit it makes sense. We’ve been poring over bridal magazines and websites for well over two weeks, criticizing sleeve lengths and silhouettes like we’re Vera Fucking Wang, and we still have nothing to show for it. “All right, fine. But not Marion’s Bridal. Anywhere but Marion’s Bridal. If I have to visit that store one more time, I’m going to kill myself. Isn’t there some mom-and-pop place we can hit?”
Emily shrugs and digs her keys out of her pocket. “You’re the one with the fancy phone, look it up. I think there’s a place on Speedway on the east side. And there’s one up north, but I think its all designer, the same crap we’ve already seen.”
I’m just about to type “dress shop” into my phone and guide us to the closest one when Emily lets out a curt laugh and looks at me with a pernicious grin. “Oh my God. I can’t believe I didn’t think of this sooner. I know where we have to go.”
“Yeah?” I rise, stretching my arms behind my head. “If you say Marion’s Bridal, I’m going to punch you in the face.”
“No, seriously, come here, you have to see this.” Emily heads down the hall (if you can even call it that in this tiny apartment) to our room and plops down into the leather chair in front of her computer. “It’s the craziest website I’ve ever been to.”
“If this is some shock-porn thing, count me out. I shared a computer with my little brother. I’ve seen my fill.”
Emily ignores me while she Googles. I see the query over her shoulder — “Isabel’s bridal” — and clicks on the second link, which actually leads to Isabella’s Formalwear. I’m expecting the same quasi-glamorous stock picture of a skin-and-bones model wearing a purple dress with a neckline down to her navel, but instead my eyes are assaulted with the most atrocious and confounding collage I’ve ever seen.
“What the hell?“ is all I can say…
Don’t forget to come back tomorrow when we’ll discuss inspiration with Alex Chase!