With the release of our seventeenth anthology, we at Sirens Call Publications decided not to break tradition and asked all of the contributing authors in FEAR: Of the Dark to share the inspiration for their stories. Out of the nine authors whose tales lurk between the covers waiting to terrify you, seven took up the challenge of putting their fears into words. Next up we have Zachary O’Shea, author of The Erebus Compact. But before we delve into what horrors hide in dark of his mind, let’s take a moment for everyone to get acquainted just a little more…
Zachary O’Shea was born in the refinery belt of California and raised in the neon desolation of Nevada. When not avoiding one armed bandits and tourists he enjoys various activities: facilitating, designing, and occasionally playing table-top RPGs, reading, writing, and eating out too often with great friends. You can find Zachary on Twitter at @boxofteeth or on his website.
So without further ado, we turn you over to Zachary…
My Many Threads of Inspiration for The Erebus Compact
The kernel of the idea that became The Erebus Compact stems from Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. When I read it years ago in school the abrupt horror of the situation resonated with me. Although my later tastes drew me to things more macabre and strange, the inhumanity of the tale stuck after all these years. The sheer superstitious and brutal nature of Tessie’s murder for the good of the town bothered me because once it could have easily been just the way it was and no one batted an eye. So when I sat down to write something for FEAR: of the Dark I knew right away I wanted to have some aspect of people set to a trial due to tradition.
It seemed only natural then to make it a period piece as such a story in the modern world might not work out so well. Then I thought of what the darkness and night does to the world, slowly consuming it until nothing is left but the void. I wondered what if it did so in an organic way, like a living thing set to devouring.
The story about a couple spending a night trying to avoid being eaten by living darkness after being selected from among their neighbors took shape. For me, one of the eeriest things about a pitch black night is the feeling that something else is out there that you cannot see, even though there is no evidence to support that. It’s the same feeling we have as children wondering what’s in our dark closet, and I’ve found it sticks with me as an adult. If you’ve ever been outside somewhere rural where there is little ambient light at night, little sounds of civilization, it’s not hard to feel there is something else there. So, the living darkness needed to have a presence to it; something malignant and ancient to fulfill my own horror tastes.
Everything else fell quickly into place, like what sort of couple would suffer the greatest in such a situation? Newlyweds are still getting used to one another, but have their eyes cast to the future. What if that future is threatened to be cut tragically short by outside forces? Last came the ‘why’. Why was the little hamlet plagued by this creature of hungry night? What sort of deal, or compact, fostered such a horrible tradition? Who exactly would ensure the devilish contract was kept year after year? In the end, I found that I like the answers to those questions and the general unrelenting terror of the story. I really hope readers do too.
Thank you Zachary! Now let’s take a look at FEAR: Of the Dark…
What makes your skin tingle? What makes you look over your shoulder sure that something is lurking there? What ratchets your tension level up so high that nothing matters more than what comes next on the page?
The answers to those questions are the ones we sought when we put together this collection of nine stories. Inside these pages you’ll find fear that engages, fear that provokes, fear that drives you to the brink of… Well, everyone has a different precipice when it comes to fear, but the stories selected for FEAR: Of the Dark certainly held our attention.
If you truly enjoy a well written story that engages the senses and prompts anxiety and paranoia, FEAR: Of the Dark may be the perfect collection of short stories for you. And in case you were wondering, it is waiting for you, out there – somewhere; you just don’t know it yet.
Rose Blackthorn, Juan J. Gutiérrez, Jovan Jones, Lars Kramhøft, Lisamarie Lamb, Jon Olson, Zachary O’Shea, Jon Steinhagen, and Alex Woolf
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And here’s an excerpt from The Erebus Compact…
Over the top of the forest canopy came the sun slowly ascending from the depths of blue-grey dawn like a deity of old. Parallel to those haughty patriarchs of myth its mien promised both a renewal of life, and a danger to gaze upon. A traveler might mistakenly assume this was why the door of every home in Rosewood remained shut and shutters closed. Yet there were eggs to gather, cows to tend, and fields begging to be reaped. The lack of activity didn’t lie in the quaint village being abandoned either. Fresh curls of smoke slithered from stone chimneys and occasionally the murmur of terrified voices leaked out.
The explanation lay in the date. There would be no moon hanging above Rosewood on this September night. Yet the collective fear began with the sun’s first rays. No one wanted to look on their front porch because of a sense of foreboding of what might be found waiting there. Somewhere a dog whimpered, and fell silent in mid-sound.
Home by home front doors opened, by only a crack at first, later flung wide when the occupants saw nothing save the mercy of thin air. Wives gasped in relief, husbands thanked the Lord above, children laughed, and families began their daily work. Still, a miasma haunted Rosewood as neighbor waved to neighbor. September’s new moon always laid doom at the feet of someone in the hamlet. This year the dubious honor fell on the doorstep of David Blythe and his pretty young bride Clarissa. She gurgled while trying to fight a faint, her fists and face pressed tightly between her husband’s strong shoulders. For his part Goodman Blythe stared lifelessly as his heart struggled to remember how to beat. Like everyone else they knew what the unspent candle with ruddy string tied about it meant. It was going to be the longest night of their lives, if they survived until dawn.
Mrs. Blythe, of fair complexion and slight health, took straight away to bed. Bound both by tradition and the red thread David whispered that he would return and made for the city square. The sooner the townsfolk knew who would suffer when night fell the sooner he could prepare. Despite the cooling weather he broke into a cold sweat while walking, and seemed to hollow with age in a space of a few blocks. Some shook their head as he passed, others crossed themselves, a few scoffed wondering what sin had come back to punish the Blythes.
By the time he reached the city’s core, built around a boarded-up well, David had a following. He numbly nodded to their apologies, but knew full well none of them wanted to take his place. The Lord Mayor and Sheriff greeted him with bowed heads and useless platitudes. They helped him atop the sturdy boards across time-eaten brick. His boots brushed grimy chains, causing a rattle to echo down into the well’s fathomless darkness. A curl of crimson filament was wrapped about the links. He stood there through the morning, like a tragic figure in a freak show. David lost count of how many times he was thanked for his sacrifice before those who had once been genial neighbors or fair-weather friends quickly retreated…
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