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. The last author to invite you into his world is Jon Steinhagen, author of Another Voice. 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…
Jon Steinhagen is a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists whose plays and musicals have been produced nationally, including Blizzard ’67, Successors, ACES, The Teapot Scandals and the new musical The Next Thing. He has received four Joseph Jefferson Awards for his work in Chicago theater and won the Julie Harris Playwriting Award for his comedy The Analytical Engine. His short fiction has appeared in print and online, significantly in The American Reader, Barrelhouse, The Minetta Review, Monkeybicycle, and The Atlas Review. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America and Signal Ensemble Theatre. You can find Jon on Twitter at @JonSteinhagen or on his website.
And without further ado, we turn you over to Jon…
The Comfort of Another Voice
If there’s one thing that freaks me out, it’s the sound of something that is definitely alive rooting around outside. On the roof, on the porch, perhaps (but hopefully not) in another room. Instead of leaving one character alone in an old dark house to investigate and slowly go bonkers, I added a bantering best buddy to take the edge off the suspense yet heighten it because the investigation becomes a shared experience. I tried to pay homage to Stephen Dixon’s run-on dialogue technique and base the house’s architecture on a friend’s childhood home, a creepy old pile dating back to 1874 – the empty servant quarters on the top floor just opposite the attic gave me gooseflesh then, as they did when I was last in the house eight years ago prior to it being sold. Lastly, one summer evening, as I sat in my living room, reading a book (not a horror story), I clearly heard a male voice say my name twice. So “present” was the voice that I could pinpoint its origin – ten feet away in my darkened dining room, which actually is the home of my old piano and other non-dining furniture. Never heard the voice again, nor do I hope to hear it ever again, regardless of whether it was a spirit, psychic energy, or just my imagination…whatever it was, it wanted my attention. It got it.
Thank you Jon! 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 Another Voice…
Jerrick calls Natterman. He says, “This is driving me crazy. I’ve got to do something about it, and I know I should wait till morning and call an exterminator or something or go up there in the morning myself with a broom or a shovel or something I can do some damage with but also carry, but I need my laptop, like, yesterday.”
“Back up. What’s going on over there?”
“Long story. I don’t suppose you could stop by? A couple of minutes?”
“Sure. I’m always up for getting out of the house.”
“I’ll give you the nickel tour of the new place.”
“On my way. You want something?”
“You’re going to stop somewhere first?”
“It’ll take half a second, I got a taste for a gyros. You want one?”
“Sure. No tomatoes. And an order of Greek fries. Just hurry up. I’m one Scotch shy of doing this myself, and I don’t want to do this myself.”
“Can you clue me in, at least?”
“I have to get into the attic. Hurry up.”
“Remind me how to get to that dump.”
Jerrick gives him his new address again and a few tips on how to navigate the irregular Olmstead streets. He tells him to hurry up.
He hangs up, goes up to the stairs to the first landing, listens. Nothing. He opens the door to the staircase that leads to what were once the servants’ quarters, listens, hears the scampering, shuts the door.
He turns on all the lights on the second floor by darting into the dark rooms and dashing to the lamps. There is no overhead lighting in this house, everything has to be plugged in; every lamp on the main floor has been ablaze since he turned them on the second the sun began to set. He can practically hear the meter outside whirring at breakneck speed and can only imagine what all of his future electric bills will look like, but it has to be done. The lights have to stay on.
He calls his wife. No answer. He checks the clock, estimates it’s got to be seven in the morning in London. She should be up. She might be showering. No, she wouldn’t be showering with the boy up and about, she’d have showered the night before, while he was asleep, if she did indeed shower before. And she doesn’t have to answer her phone all the time, although he’s never tried calling her ‘round the clock. He’s always honored her schedule and never called her when she’s supposed to be at the gallery or even while he thinks she’s having dinner, either with the boy or by herself later when she’s put him to bed. Now he can hear the scampering from the first landing, with the staircase door shut. Two seconds of it, no more, something small or semi-small hauling ass in the attic or in one of the tiny rooms. He punches the old light switch on the wall. Nothing…