Editors: Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar
Writers: J. Kenner, Bentley Little, and Mick Garris
Genre: Horror / Paranormal Fantasy / Paranormal Romance
Mick Garris, J. Kenner, Kealan Patrick Burke, Del James, and Bentley Little pry open a sarcophagus of horror and dread in Dark Screams: Volume Five, from Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar of the esteemed Cemetery Dance Publications.
EVERYTHING YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED by Mick Garris
It was supposed to be the night of his life: a celebration of his one hit slasher flick. But the price of admission is higher than this has-been filmmaker ever could have imagined.
THE ONE AND ONLY by J. Kenner
When he was seven, Will Underwood’s nanny told him she had the Sight. Years later, a broken heart sends him to New Orleans . . . but it’s fate that leads him to Madame Darkling’s Voodoo Emporium.
THE LAND OF SUNSHINE by Kealan Patrick Burke
Although she was mute long before the affair that nearly wrecked their marriage, her silence has tortured her husband ever since. Now he will seek out what he has lost—or be driven mad by remorse.
MECHANICAL GRATITUDE by Del James
Arnold loves his ’68 Camaro almost as much as he loves his wife, and he’s willing to do anything to protect them both—especially after hearing strange noises coming from his garage.
THE PLAYHOUSE by Bentley Little
A real-estate agent is drawn into a children’s playhouse behind an abandoned property she’s trying to sell—and finds herself strangely reluctant to leave.
From “The Land of Sunshine” by Kealan Patrick Burke
The cracks in his marriage had started to appear ever since the affair, and nothing they had tried in the years since had fully shored up the crevasse. It didn’t help that his wife couldn’t speak, for though it had never bothered him before, her muteness now more than ever seemed like an infirmity destined to compound the inevitability of their dissolution. He had never heard her voice, and so did not have the right to mourn its absence. She had ceased speaking due to a trauma that long preceded their union. But still, it frustrated him. She could hear him perfectly, of course. This he knew. But without the benefit of inflection, her silent nods or shakes of her head, or the slight gestures she made with her hands, could be read only one way, or no way at all, and he needed the kind of closure the quiet seldom gave. She had never learned to sign, and he supposed this was a good thing. If her hands were not raised, he didn’t have to see the pale scars that bisected her wrists, and thus be reminded of how he had failed her.
To aggravate the situation, as they moved like ghosts through the gloaming of their lives together, he also began to develop the nagging sensation that something other than love had gone missing, something other than his loyalty had gone astray. It manifested itself as a vague certainty, a low voice in another room, the persistent conviction that someone had stolen into the house of their marriage and shifted things around just the tiniest little bit, just enough to create a subliminal feeling of violation, of something not quite amiss, but awry.
When he expressed this concern, his wife regarded him as she often did these days, with mute attentiveness draped like a dust cloth over the dark hunkering shapes of pity and resentment. If she felt the same absence of anything but mutual love, it was not evident on her face, but then nothing was.
It was at night, as he lay on his back in a bed that like so many things had seen better days, his back sunken into the valley in the old mattress, that it became clear what he must do. He must find and locate that missing thing, that wrong thing, and return it from whence it came, before he lost all that was left to lose.
After creeping wraithlike out of their bedroom, which seemed cavernous in the dark—a direct contrast to the lives shrinking within its suspiciously wavering confines—he decided to start at Moriarty’s, a place he had frequented enough times that surely the mahogany on his favored corner of the bar must still bear the scuffs of his elbows.
Dressed in a once-black threadbare overcoat and porkpie hat, he shuddered out into the cold and navigated the narrow, dark streets with the same chaotic certainty as a marble through a tilted maze. Here in this forgotten neighborhood, the streetlights had died in time with the idea of prosperity and reclamation. The city had eaten it, and its coal-dark shadow had scalded everything from the gaps in the gutters to the morality of the disillusioned young who haunted its corners. Even they weren’t present now, though, and his sigh of relief was visible as a transient specter that, despite the absence of a breeze to claim it, whipped away from him as if eager to be free of the association. In the suffocating quiet, his shoes made the sound of slow, sarcastic applause in the dry, humorless rent of an alley that seemed all too eager to close in on him before he had a chance to clear it.
Freed of the garbage truck–like sensation of being crushed, an impression aided by the stench that swaddled him upon his exit, he moved quickly toward the sole oasis of light in this otherwise claustrophobic urban labyrinth of forgotten streets, and found himself within view of the bar. It sat crookedly on a corner that seemed merely to tolerate the weight, the amber light through the stained windows bleeding sickly into the gloom.
Buoyed at the reprieve from the darkness, the man quickened his step and then immediately regretted it, his enthusiasm writing signatures across his knees with an arthritic pen. Hissing like the steam that bullied its way from the vents in the street, he limped on, until he found his heart lightened by the idea of old friends and familiar faces, his hand warmed by the door handle, his mind settled, but only briefly, by the notion that here the mystery of loss might begin its unraveling.
He twisted the handle and pulled.