Recently, Sirens Call Publications released its sixteenth anthology titled Voices from the Gloom – Volume 2. With ten stories contained within, none of them specific to any theme other than exceptional horror, we wanted to know what inspiration these authors were met with in writing their tales. Today we’ll be hearing from Kevin Holton and his story First, Last, and Forever. For those of you who don’t know too much about Kevin, here’s a little more information to get everyone acquainted…
Kevin Holton is a New Jersey-based horror writer who has published seventeen short stories and counting. His work has appeared in various popular anthologies as well as Pleiades, and he is currently working on his third novel. When not writing, he can be found reading, running, and relaxing on the coast. You can find Kevin on Twitter at @kevinjlholton or on Facebook.
So without further ado, we turn you over to Kevin…
Reasons to Fight
First, Last, and Forever started with the first line, and I don’t mean that literally. I was sitting around at work, staring at my computer screen and feigning productivity when the opening line came to me. It didn’t come like some ideas, which creep into the conscious mind through the cracks in our subconscious, but like a bullet fired from the gun that goes off at the end.
From there, I knew I had a story. This story would be built around that first sentence, so I began by reworking that until it was as finely-honed as it could be. Once satisfied, I dove into the rest.
Inspiration-wise, it’s hard to point my finger at something and say, “That, over there, that thing in the corner. That’s my muse, a-yup.” I think creativity is equal parts experience and ethic: sometimes you pull in shreds of your past and write with the shadows that linger in your heart, other times you have to make yourself write just as you have to make yourself get up and go to your nine-to-five.
So, in writing this piece, I focused on the interplay between reality and extraordinary. Stories are more compelling (I think) when the characters seem real. That doesn’t mean I want to hear all the excruciating details of the protagonist mopping spilled milk off the grocery floor, but knowing that this person is someone outside of the narrative makes me more interested. It means, if s/he loses his/her battles and dies/goes insane/is banished to the void, people will realize this. People will miss that person, if only to say, “Why hasn’t Kyle punched in?”
We all have many identities. Whatever we consider to be the main ‘adventure’ of our lives is only a fraction of who we are. I may be a writer, but I’m also a diabetic, a hard worker, a family man, a loyal friend, and a runner. Likewise, Francesca isn’t merely the main female character; she’s a student, a teenager, a daughter, and a victim of an ancient, powerful force. The narrator isn’t just the person telling the story; he’s a professor, a scholar, and a soldier in a war he cannot win.
For this story—more so than any previously played game, read story, or whispered campfire tale—I was inspired by the way our side-identities interfere with the things we feel are most important. I know I’m not alone in having said things like, “Wow, I’d love to spend time with my family, but I have to work,” or, “It’d be great to write, but I have to go mow the lawn and then head to the grocery store.”
This story is for the tiny details that tie us to others. It’s about the little things that give us reasons to fight our darkness, even if defeat is inevitable.
Thank you Kevin. Now let’s take a look at Voices from the Gloom – Volume 2:
In this second volume, you’ll encounter ten stories that will send icy shivers down your spine. It includes tales of two brothers who find an opening into another world behind their grandparent’s home; a reporter sent to investigate a haunted house only to find out it holds a more nefarious secret; and the story of a woman searching for her lover but when she doesn’t find him, the tale takes a demented twist.
Get lost in the different voices, let their horrific nature speak to you from the spaces between the shadows. Allow them to get into your head and wring the marrow from your soul…
Maynard Blackoak, Carson Buckingham, Alex Clarke, Kevin Holton, DW Gillespie, Erik Gustafson, Jacob Lambert, Patrick O’Neill, Hannah Sears, and J.T. Seate
Available for purchase at:
And here’s a short excerpt from First, Last, and Forever…
Danica took my hand, sliding a note into it as she said, “We must do what we can to stop darkness from spreading, even if all we can do is stop ourselves,” then, with her other hand, pulled the trigger, leaving her brains on the ceiling of my Cadillac and her infant daughter wailing in the back seat. My nose stung with the odor of spent gunpowder, which nicely masked the copper of blood and the ineffable scent of brain matter. I didn’t even know that she owned a gun, much less had one in her hand the entire time she’d been in a car with me. Staring wide-eyed and unblinking at the empty space where her head had been only a moment earlier, then down at her body, which slumped against the passenger side door, I thought of how Hollywood lied to me.
Witnessing a sudden death is never like how it looks in the movies. There’s no dropping to the ground, no wailing and screaming, no pleas to the divine to save someone who is clearly dying; there is only a sudden void that takes the place of thought because the conscious mind can’t handle what just happened. That’s about all I was left with, other than a screaming child, a note in my hand and a ringing in my ears. No goodbyes, no prayers, no resolutions.
I took out my pocket watch. It was a silver hunter case with a spiraling, white gold inlay, a simple design, with her face on the inside. Pulling the pin, I turned it back a very small bit, then shut the case again. It was 8:14 PM. I would not learn why that was so important for nearly two decades, and had I known why at the time, I would’ve pried the gun from her hand and checked to see if she’d been kind enough to leave extra rounds in the chamber.
However, since I did not, I turned the car off, tucked the note into my pocket, and got out to pick up Francesca, who I prayed would be too young to remember her mother’s suicide. Noticing the light flurries of winter’s first snow fluttering down from the sky, I removed my coat, swaddling the girl as I carried her away from the scene. It was just as well anyway; I like the cold, even if I didn’t notice it that night. Part of me idly remarked that the stars were out, which struck me as odd, because the night had been so black that what light existed seemed oppressed, crushed, even, by the sheer existence of night.
The wind howled around the bluffs, as if calling those who drove up to the heights to hurl themselves off, allowing their bodies to hurtle down the cliff face and towards Bay Ridge City, the lights of which were blinking out. Did she hear the wind’s cries and, in a flash, decide to listen to their call? Was throwing her body from a cliff too slow a way to die, or did she want to make sure I was watching? She had always been so secretive, a pale, raven-haired woman who locked herself away from the entire world, letting only me into her life. I had thought the mystery alluring, had enjoyed her enigmatic nature and our talks about the making of the universe, but nothing in her ever gave me cause to think her suicidal…