Saturday, October 29, 2016

Halloween horror MC

art by Richard Corben
Imagine you're in a canoe, floating down a wide, slow part of the Amazon river. You've been sick for several days with some kind of jungle virus, so you're very weak and feverish. In fact, you lost your oar at some point during a fit of delirium.

Opposite you sits something that used to be your friend. The two of you were orchid hunters, but Falmer went off alone while you were sick. He was exploring a sepulchre full of vine-bound skeletons when he inhaled some strange spores that made him sick. Now he has an alien plant growing out of his skull and slowly taking over his whole body. You tried to cut it out with no success, and when you thought you were getting over your sickness, you got him int the canoe and set off downstream in search of a doctor. But now you're sick again, Falmer is so far gone that you can't tell if he's dead or alive, and in your condition it would be suicide to jump out of the boat and try to swim to shore. So you're stuck here with him/it, waiting to see what will happen next.

That's the setup for Clark Ashton Smith's story "The Seed from the Sepulchre," which you can read in full here. I'm only going to give you the last section, as a Halloween gift. Fair warning: although the story does contain MC, it's a horror story above anything else. That's why I chose it for Halloween (I''ll share something much lighter next week, I promise). I'm putting the squickiest bits in spoiler text, but even if you don't read those parts, you're still in for a very scary ride. Hang on tight.

During the interim of Thone's delirium and his lapse into slumber, the monstrous plant bud, merely stimulated, it would seem, by the act of excision, had grown again with preternatural rapidity, from Falmer's head. A loathsome pale-green stem was mounting thickly, and had started to branch like antlers after attaining a height of six or seven inches.

[highlight for squick]More dreadful than this, if possible, similar growths had issued from the eyes; and their stems, climbing vertically across the forehead, had entirely displaced the eyeballs. Already they were branching like the thing from the crown. [/squick] The antlers were all tipped with pale vermilion. They appeared to quiver with repulsive animations, nodding rhythmically in the warm, windless air... From the mouth another stem protruded, curling upward like a long and whitish tongue. It had not yet begun to bifurcate.

Thone closed his eyes to shut away the shocking vision. Behind his lids, in a yellow dazzle of light, he still saw the cadaverous features, the climbing stems that quivered against the dawn like ghastly hydras of tomb-etiolated green. They seemed to be waving toward him, growing and lengthening as they waved. He opened his eyes again, and fancied, with a start of new terror; that the antlers were actually taller than they had been a few moments previous.

After that, he sat watching them in a sort of baleful hypnosis. The illusion of the plant's visible growth, and freer movement – if it were illusion – increased upon him. Falmer, however, did not stir, and his parchment face appeared to shrivel and fall in, as if the roots of the growth were draining his blood, were devouring his very flesh in their insatiable and ghoulish hunger.

Thone wrenched his eyes away and stared at the river shore. The stream had widened and the current had grown more sluggish. He sought to recognize their location, looking vainly for some familiar landmark in the monotonous dull-green cliffs of jungle that lined the margin. He felt hopelessly lost and alienated. He seemed to be drifting on an unknown tide of madness and nightmare, accompanied by something more frightful than corruption itself.

His mind began to wander with an odd inconsequence, coming back always, in a sort of closed circle, to the thing that was devouring Falmer. With a flash of scientific curiosity, he found himself wondering to what genus it belonged. It was neither fungus nor pitcher plant, nor anything that he had ever encountered or heard of in his explorations. It must have come, as Falmer had suggested, from an alien world: it was nothing that the earth could conceivably have nourished.

He felt, with a comforting assurance, that Falmer was dead. That at least, was a mercy. But even as he shaped the thought he heard a low, guttural moaning, and, peering at Falmer in a horrible startlement, saw that his limbs and body were twitching slightly. The twitching increased, and took on a rhythmic regularity, though at no time did it resemble the agonized and violent convulsions of the previous day. It was plainly automatic, like a sort of galvanism; and Thone saw that it was timed with the languorous and loathsome swaying of the plant. The effect on the watcher was insidiously mesmeric and somnolent; and once he caught himself beating the detestable rhythm with his foot.

He tried to pull himself together, groping desperately for something to which his sanity could cling. Ineluctably, his illness returned: fever, nausea, and revulsion worse than the loathliness of death. But before he yielded to it utterly, he drew his loaded revolver from the holster and fired six times into Falmer's quivering body. He knew that he had not missed, but after the final bullet Falmer still moaned and twitched in unison with the evil swaying of the plant, and Thone, sliding into delirium, heard still the ceaseless, automatic moaning.

There was no time in the world of seething unreality and shoreless oblivion through which he drifted. When he came to himself again, he could not know if hours or weeks had elapsed. But he knew at once that the boat was no longer moving; and lifting himself dizzily, he saw that it had floated into shallow water and mud and was nosing the beach of a tiny, jungle-tufted isle in mid-river. The putrid odor of slime was about him like a stagnant pool; and he heard a strident humming of insects.
It was either late morning or early afternoon, for the sun was high in the still heavens. Lianas were drooping above him from the island trees like uncoiled serpents, and epiphytic orchids, marked with ophidian mottlings, leaned toward him grotesquely from lowering boughs. Immense butterflies went past on sumptuously spotted wings.

art by Sergiy Krykun
He sat up, feeling very giddy and lightheaded, and faced again the horror that accompanied him. The thing had grown incredibly: the three-antlered stems, mounting above Falmer's head, had become gigantic and had put out masses of ropy feelers that tossed uneasily in the air, as if searching for support – or new provender. In the topmost antlers a prodigious blossom had opened – a sort of fleshy disk, broad as a man's face and white as leprosy.

Falmer's features had shrunken till the outlines of every bone were visible as if beneath tightened paper. He was a mere death's head in a mask of human skin; and beneath his clothing the body was little more than a skeleton. He was quite still now, except for the communicated quivering of the stems. The atrocious plant had sucked him dry, had eaten his vitals and his flesh.

Thone wanted to hurl himself forward in a mad impulse to grapple with the growth. But a strange paralysis held him back. The plant was like a living and sentient thing – a thing that watched him, that dominated him with its unclean but superior will. And the huge blossom, as he stared, took on the dim, unnatural semblance of a face. It was somehow like the face of Falmer, but the lineaments were twisted all awry, and were mingled with those of something wholly devilish and nonhuman. Thone could not move – he could not take his eyes from the blasphemous abnormality.

By some miracle, his fever had left him; and it did not return. Instead, there came an eternity of frozen fright and madness in which he sat facing the mesmeric plant. It towered before him from the dry, dead shell that had been Falmer, its swollen, glutted stems and branches swaying gently, its huge flower leering perpetually upon him with its impious travesty of a human face. He thought that he heard a low, singing sound, ineffably sweet, but whether it emanated from the plant or was a mere hallucination of his overwrought senses, he could not know.

The sluggish hours went by, and a grueling sun poured down its beams like molten lead from some titanic vessel of torture. His head swam with weakness and the fetor-laden heat, but he could not relax the rigor of his posture. There was no change in the nodding monstrosity, which seemed to have attained its full growth above the head of its victim. But after a long interim Thone's eyes were drawn to the shrunken hands of Falmer, which still clasped the drawn-up knees in a spasmodic clutch. Through the ends of the fingers, tiny white rootlets had broken and were writhing slowly in the air, groping, it seemed, for a new source of nourishment. Then from the neck and chin, other tips were breaking, and over the whole body the clothing stirred in a curious manner, as if with the crawling and lifting of hidden lizards.

At the same time the singing grew louder, sweeter, more imperious, and the swaying of the great plant assumed an indescribably seductive tempo. It was like the allurement of voluptuous sirens, the deadly languor of dancing cobras. Thone felt an irresistible compulsion: a summons was being laid upon him, and his drugged mind and body must obey it. The very fingers of Falmer, twisting viperishly, seemed beckoning to him. Suddenly he was on his hands and knees in the bottom of the boat. Inch by inch, with terror and fascination contending in his brain, he crept forward, dragging himself over the disregarded bundle of orchid-plants, inch by inch, foot by foot, till his head was against the withered hands of Falmer, from which hung and floated the questing roots.

Some cataleptic spell had made him helpless. He felt the rootlets as they moved like delving fingers through his hair and over his face and neck, and started to strike in with agonizing, needle-sharp tips. He could not stir; he could not even close his lids. [highlight for squick]In a frozen stare, he saw the gold and carmine flash of a hovering butterfly as the roots began to pierce his pupils.[/squick]

Deeper and deeper went the greedy roots, while new filaments grew out to enmesh him like a witch's net. For a while, it seemed that the dead and the living writhed together in leashed convulsions. At last Thone hung supine amid the lethal, ever-growing web; bloated and colossal, the plant lived on; and in its upper branches, through the still, stifling afternoon, a second flower began to unfold.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Sweet, hypnotic body horror

picture source
So I finally got around to reading the classic SF/horror story Shambleau; and y'all, this story is so hot that it's making me go all Southern all you. C.L. Moore gets it. She gets the attraction of submitting to an evil mind controller better than any other mainstream author I know of, and she knows how to make you feel it down to your...ahem...roots:

[T]through all that was Smith the dreadful pleasure ran. And it was truly dreadful. Dimly he knew it, even as his body answered to the root-deep ecstasy, a foul and dreadful wooing from which his very soul shuddered away—and yet in the innermost depths of that soul some grinning traitor shivered with delight.

You know that grinning traitor, don't you? It lives in me, and I'll bet it lives in you too - and in C. L. Moore herself. trilby else has read all of Moore's "Jirel of Joiry" novels, and he says there's MC in some of them, too. Considering how well Moore writes, I'll have to look up those "Jirel of Joiry" stories myself soon.

But about this story, "Shambleau." It contains so many, many squirmy-hot scenes that part of me wants to just quote the whole middle section right here. Unfortunately, that would deprive you of the pleasure of discovering more hot scenes than the one I'm quoting here. But ohh, how you're going to love the description of the protagonist's late-stage enslavement! You'll have to read that here, though, along with the rest of the story. In this blog entry, I'm just going to give you  an introduction to the story and then quote the centerpiece scene (The ellipses came from C.L. Moore; I'm not leaving anything out).

First, the introduction. This is one of those space westerns that were popular before we learned what the surface of Mars and Venus were really like. Our hero is Northwest Smith, but you might as well just picture him as Han Solo circa A New Hope. They're a close enough match, and you'll have more fun imagining Han in these situations than you will if you just think of a random smuggler. At the beginning of the story, Smith/Han saves an alien girl from a mob who want to kill her. They keep chanting "Shambleau," but Smith/Han doesn't know what that means, and he takes her in. The girl has velvety brown skin; a tattered, scarlet leather garment (mmm!); emerald eyes with catlike pupils; and a tight-fitting turban. Naturally our hero is attracted to her, and once they're alone in his rented room he tries to kiss her; but some instinctual fear makes him push her back at the last second.That night he dreams about being paralyzed while something slimy but wonderful caresses his neck. He forgets it the next day.

Then, the next night, this happens:

    From deeps of sound sleep he awoke much later. He awoke suddenly and completely, and with that inner excitement that presages something momentous. He awoke to brilliant moonlight, turning the room so bright that he could see the scarlet of the girl's rags as she sat up on her pallet. She was awake, she was sitting with her shoulder half turned to him and her head bent, and some warning instinct crawled coldly up his spine as he watched what she was doing. And yet it was a very ordinary thing for a girl to do—any girl, anywhere. She was unbinding her turban . . .
    He watched, not breathing, a presentiment of something horrible stirring in his brain, inexplicably . . . The red folds loosened, and—he knew then that he had not dreamed—again a scarlet lock swung down against her cheek . . . a hair, was it? a lock of hair? . . . thick as a thick worm it fell, plumply, against that smooth cheek . . . more scarlet than blood and thick as a crawling worm . . . and like a worm it crawled.
    Smith rose on an elbow, not realizing the motion, and fixed an unwinking stare, with a sort of sick, fascinated incredulity, on that—that lock of hair. He had not dreamed. Until now he had taken it for granted that it was the segir which had made it seem to move on that evening before. But now . . . it was lengthening, stretching, moving of itself. It must be hair, but it crawled; with a sickening life of its own it squirmed down against her cheek, caressingly, revoltingly, impossibly . . . Wet, it was, and round and thick and shining . . .
    She unfastened the last fold and whipped the turban off. From what he saw then Smith would have turned his eyes away—and he had looked on dreadful things before, without flinching—but he could not stir. He could only lie there on elbow staring at the mass of scarlet, squirming—worms, hairs, what?—that writhed over her head in a dreadful mockery of ringlets. And it was lengthening, falling, somehow growing before his eyes, down over her shoulders in a spilling cascade, a mass that even at the beginning could never have been hidden under the skull-tight turban she had worn. He was beyond wondering, but he realized that. And still it squirmed and lengthened and fell, and she shook it out in a horrible travesty of a woman shaking out her unbound hair—until the unspeakable tangle of it—twisting, writhing, obscenely scarlet—hung to her waist and beyond, and still lengthened, an endless mass of crawling horror that until now, somehow, impossibly, had been hidden under the tight-bound turban. It was like a nest of blind, restless red worms . . . it was—it was like naked entrails endowed with an unnatural aliveness, terrible beyond words.
    Smith lay in the shadows, frozen without and within in a sick numbness that came of utter shock and revulsion.
    She shook out the obscene, unspeakable tangle over her shoulders, and somehow he knew that she was going to turn in a moment and that he must meet her eyes. The thought of that meeting stopped his heart with dread, more awfully than anything else in this nightmare horror; for nightmare it must be, surely. But he knew without trying that he could not wrench his eyes away—the sickened fascination of that sight held him motionless, and somehow there was a certain beauty . . .
Her head was turning. The crawling awfulness rippled and squirmed at the motion, writhing thick and wet and shining over the soft brown shoulders about which they fell now in obscene cascades that all but hid her body. Her head was turning. Smith lay numb. And very slowly he saw the round of her cheek foreshorten and her profile come into view, all the scarlet horrors twisting ominously, and the profile shortened in turn and her full face came slowly round toward the bed—moonlight shining brilliantly as day on the pretty girl-face, demure and sweet, framed in tangled obscenity that crawled . . .
    The green eyes met his. He felt a perceptible shock, and a shudder rippled down his paralyzed spine, leaving an icy numbness in its wake. He felt the goose-flesh rising. But that numbness and cold horror he scarcely realized, for the green eyes were locked with his in a long, long look that somehow presaged nameless things—not altogether unpleasant things—the voiceless voice of her mind assailing him with little murmurous promises . . .
    For a moment he went down into a blind abyss of submission; and then somehow the very sight of that obscenity in eyes that did not then realize they saw it, was dreadful enough to draw him out of the seductive darkness . . . the sight of her crawling and alive with unnamable horror.
    She rose, and down about her in a cascade fell the squirming scarlet of—of what grew upon her head. It fell in a long, alive cloak to her bare feet on the floor, hiding her in a wave of dreadful, wet, writhing life. She put up her hands and like a swimmer she parted the waterfall of it, tossing the masses back over her shoulders to reveal her own brown body, sweetly curved. She smiled exquisitely, and in starting waves back from her forehead and down about her in a hideous background writhed the snaky wetness of her living tresses. And Smith knew that he looked upon Medusa.
    The knowledge of that—the realization of vast backgrounds reaching into misted history—shook him out of his frozen horror for a moment, and in that moment he met her eyes again, smiling, green as glass in the moonlight, half hooded under drooping lids. Through the twisting scarlet she held out her arms. And there was something soul-shakingly desirable about her, so that all the blood surged to his head suddenly and he stumbled to his feet like a sleeper in a dream as she swayed toward him, infinitely graceful, infinitely sweet in her cloak of living horror.
    And somehow there was beauty in it, the wet scarlet writhings with moonlight sliding and shining along the thick, worm-round tresses and losing itself in the masses only to glint again and move silvery along writhing tendrils—an awful, shuddering beauty more dreadful than any ugliness could be.
    But all this, again, he but half realized, for the insidious murmur was coiling again through his brain, promising, caressing, alluring, sweeter than honey; and the green eyes that held his were clear and burning like the depths of a jewel, and behind the pulsing slits of darkness he was staring into a greater dark that held all things . . . He had known—dimly he had known when he first gazed into those flat animal shallows that behind them lay this—all beauty and terror, all horror and delight, in the infinite darkness upon which her eyes opened like windows, paned with emerald glass.
    Her lips moved, and in a murmur that blended indistinguishably with the silence and the sway of her body and the dreadful sway of her—her hair—she whispered—very softly, very passionately, "I shall—speak to you now—in my own tongue—oh, beloved!"
    And in her living cloak she swayed to him, the murmur swelling seductive and caressing in his innermost brain—promising, compelling, sweeter than sweet. His flesh crawled to the horror of her, but it was a perverted revulsion that clasped what it loathed. His arms slid round her under the sliding cloak, wet, wet and warm and hideously alive—and the sweet velvet body was clinging to his, her arms locked about his neck—and with a whisper and a rush the unspeakable horror closed about them both.
    In nightmares until he died he remembered that moment when the living tresses of Shambleau first folded him in their embrace. A nauseous, smothering odor as the wetness shut around him—thick, pulsing worms clasping every inch of his body, sliding, writhing, their wetness and warmth striking through his garments as if he stood naked to their embrace.
picture source
    All this in a graven instant—and after that a tangled flash of conflicting sensation before oblivion closed over him for he remembered the dream—and knew it for nightmare reality now, and the sliding, gently moving caresses of those wet, warm worms upon his flesh was an ecstasy above words—that deeper ecstasy that strikes beyond the body and beyond the mind and tickles the very roots of soul with unnatural delight. So he stood, rigid as marble, as helplessly stony as any of Medusa's victims in ancient legends were, while the terrible pleasure of Shambleau thrilled and shuddered through every fiber of him; through every atom of his body and the intangible atoms of what men call the soul, through all that was Smith the dreadful pleasure ran. And it was truly dreadful. Dimly he knew it, even as his body answered to the root-deep ecstasy, a foul and dreadful wooing from which his very soul shuddered away—and yet in the innermost depths of that soul some grinning traitor shivered with delight. But deeply, behind all this, he knew horror and revulsion and despair beyond telling, while the intimate caresses crawled obscenely in the secret places of his soul—knew that the soul should not be handled—and shook with the perilous pleasure through it all.
    And this conflict and knowledge, this mingling of rapture and revulsion all took place in the flashing of a moment while the scarlet worms coiled and crawled upon him, sending deep, obscene tremors of that infinite pleasure into every atom that made up Smith. And he could not stir in that slimy, ecstatic embrace—and a weakness was flooding that grew deeper after each succeeding wave of intense delight, and the traitor in his soul strengthened and drowned out the revulsion—and something within him ceased to struggle as he sank wholly into a blazing darkness that was oblivion to all else but that devouring rapture . . .

Sunday, October 16, 2016

If the Phantasm sphere was a mind control device

I first became aware of this video when Antjack posted some stills from it on his site. They were so intriguing that I had to look up the full video right away - and I wanted to make a post about it right away. But one thing led to another, and I'm only now getting to share it with you. I think you'll agree that it's worth the wait.

I'm not going to tell you anything about what's coming except that the actress is Rosamund Pike from the movie Gone Girl. Now, strap in tight and enjoy the ride.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Vintage - but blazing hot - MC

painting by Zdzisław Beksiński
Before there was H.P. Lovecraft, there was Robert W. Chambers. I'm betting that you don't know who Chambers is, but that you'd recognize at least some of these names: The King in Yellow, the Yellow Sign, Hastur, and Carcosa. Lovecraft and Lovecraft's followers took them all and ran with them (Well, Chambers actually took Carcosa from Ambrose Bierce and ran with it, but then Lovecraft's gang took it too and ran even further).

Chambers is a much better writer than Lovecraft. In fact, Lovecraft once said, "Chambers is like Rupert Hughes and a few other fallen Titans – equipped with the right brains and education but wholly out of the habit of using them" - by which Lovecraft meant that Chambers was a fool to stop writing weird fiction and to shift instead to romance and adventure. I wish Chambers had written more weird fiction, myself, but at least he gave us five "King in Yellow" pieces and several other good spook stories, including one called "The Case of Mr. Helmer" in which you'd swear Neil Gaiman's own famous Death makes an appearance. Just for my own pleasure, I made an e-book of Chambers' "King in Yellow" stories and some of his other best work, and you're welcome to download a free copy if you like. All his work is in the public domain, so none of us will get in trouble for it. Here's the Dropbox link. And here's a hint: The very best "King in Yellow" story is "The Yellow Sign."

But all the above is just preface. After Chambers went mainstream, he wrote a handful of other supernatural novels, including one called The Slayer of Souls. It's about a young woman named Tressa who's captured by a devil-worshiping cult and escapes after learning all their magic. She then joins the US Secret Service in an attempt to track down and eliminate the cult leaders, who can control human minds and turn them to the worship of Erlik, the devil. It's a pretty cool concept, and especially cool when you realize that the novel was written just as women were beginning to get voting rights, yet Tressa is far more powerful than any man in the story. Then there's another powerful woman, one of the villains, who has this encounter with Tressa's so-called protector, Cleves:

Now, grasping his pistol but not drawing it, he began another stealthy tour of the apartment, exploring every nook and cranny. And, at the end, had discovered nothing new.
When at length he realised that, as far as he could discover, there was not a living thing in the place excepting himself, a very faint chill grew along his neck and shoulders, and he caught his breath suddenly, deeply.
He had come back to the bedroom, now. The perfume of the orchids saturated the still air.
And, as he stood staring at them, all of a sudden he saw, where their twisted stalks rested in the transparent bowl of water, something moving—something brilliant as a live ember gliding out from among the mass of submerged stems—a living fish glowing in scarlet hues and winnowing the water with grotesquely trailing fins as delicate as filaments of scarlet lace.
To and fro swam the fish among the maze of orchid stalks. Even its eyes were hot and red as molten rubies; and as its crimson gills swelled and relaxed and swelled, tints of cherry-fire waxed and waned over its fat and glowing body.
And vaguely, now, in the perfume saturated air, Cleves seemed to sense a subtle taint of evil,—something sinister in the intense stillness of the place—in the jewelled fish gliding so silently in and out among the pallid convolutions of the drowned stems.
As he stood staring at the fish, the drugged odour of the orchids heavy in his throat and lungs, something stirred very lightly in the room.
Chills crawling over every limb, he looked around across his shoulder.
There was a figure seated cross-legged in the middle of the bed!
Then, in the perfumed silence, the girl laughed.
For a full minute neither of them moved. No sound had echoed her low laughter save the deadened pulsations of his own heart. But now there grew a faint ripple of water in the bowl where the scarlet fish, suddenly restless, was swimming hither and thither as though pursued by an invisible hand.
With the slight noise of splashing water in his ears, Cleves stood staring at the figure on the bed. Under her chinchilla the girl seemed to be all a pale golden tint—hair, skin, eyes. The scant shred of an evening gown she wore, the jewels at her throat and breast, all were yellow and amber and saffron-gold.
And now, looking him in the eyes, she leisurely disengaged the robe of silver fur from her naked shoulders and let it fall around her on the bed. For a second the lithe, willowy golden thing gathered there as gracefully as a coiled snake filled him with swift loathing. Then, almost instantly, the beauty of the lissome creature fascinated him.
She leaned forward and set her elbows on her two knees, and rested her face between her hands—like a gold rose-bud between two ivory petals, he thought, dismayed by this young thing's beauty, shaken by the dull confusion of his own heart battering his breast like the blows of a rising tide.
"What do you wish?" she inquired in her soft young voice. "Why have you come secretly into my rooms to search—and clasping in your hand a loaded pistol deep within your pocket?"
"Why have you hidden yourself until now?" he retorted in a dull and laboured voice.
"I have been here."
"Here!... Looking at you.... And watching my scarlet fish. His name is Dzelim. He is nearly a thousand years old and as wise as a magician. Look upon him, my lord! See how rapidly he darts around his tiny crystal world!—like a comet through outer star-dust, running the eternal race with Time.... And—yonder is a chair. Will my lord be seated—at his new servant's feet?"
A strange, physical weariness seemed to weight his limbs and shoulders. He seated himself near the bed, never taking his heavy gaze from the smiling, golden thing which squatted there watching him so intently....
She lifted one hand and with her forefinger made signs from right to left and then downward as though writing in Turkish and in Chinese characters.
"It is written," she said in a low voice, "that we belong to God and we return to him. Look out what you are about, my lord!"
He drew his pistol from his overcoat and, holding it, rested his hand on his knee.
"Now," he said hoarsely, "while we await the coming of Togrul Kahn, you shall remain exactly where you are, and you shall tell me exactly who you are in order that I may decide whether to arrest you as an alien enemy inciting my countrymen to murder, or to let you go as a foreigner who is able to prove her honesty and innocence."
The girl laughed:
"Be careful," she said. "My danger lies in your youth and mine—somewhere between your lips and mine lies my only danger from you, my lord."
A dull flush mounted to his temples and burned there....
Look upon me, my lord!
There was a golden light in his eyes which seemed to stiffen the muscles and confuse his vision. He heard her voice again as though very far away:
"It is written that we shall love, my lord—thou and I—this night—this night. Listen attentively. I am thy slave. My lips shall touch thy feet. Look upon me, my lord!"
There was a dazzling blindness in his eyes and in his brain. He swayed a little still striving to fix her with his failing gaze. His pistol hand slipped sideways from his knee, fell limply, and the weapon dropped to the thick carpet. He could still see the glimmering golden shape of her, still hear her distant voice:
"It is written that we belong to God.... Tokhta!..."
Over his knees was settling a snow-white [shroud]; on it, in his lap, lay a naked knife. There was not a sound in the room save the rushing and splashing of the scarlet fish in its crystal bowl.
Bending nearer, the girl fixed her yellow eyes on the man who looked back at her with dying gaze, sitting upright and knee deep in his shroud.
Then, noiselessly she uncoiled her supple golden body, extending her right arm toward the knife.
"Look upon me attentively, my lord!
Her smooth little hand closed on the hilt; the scarlet fish splashed furiously in the bowl, dislodging a blossom or two which fell to the carpet and slowly faded into mist.
Now she grasped the knife, and she slipped from the bed to the floor and stood before the dazed man.
"This is the Namaz-Ga," she said in her silky voice. "Behold, this is the appointed Place of Prayer. Gaze around you, my lord. These are the shadows of mighty men who come here to see you die in the Place of Prayer."
Cleves's head had fallen back, but his eyes were open. The Baroulass girl took his head in both hands and turned it hither and thither. And his glazing eyes seemed to sweep a throng of shadowy white-robed men crowding the room. And ... his stiffening lips parted in an uttered cry, and sagged open, flaccid and soundless.
The Baroulass sorceress lifted the shroud from his knees and spread it on the carpet, moving with leisurely grace about her business and softly intoning the Prayers for the Dead.
Then, having made her arrangements, she took her knife into her right hand again and came back to the half-conscious man, and stood close in front of him, bending near and looking curiously into his dimmed eyes.
"Ayah!" she said smilingly. "This is the Place of Prayer. And you shall add your prayer to ours before I use my knife. So! I give you back your power of speech. Pronounce the name of Erlik!"
Very slowly his dry lips moved and his dry tongue trembled. The word they formed was,

Not bad at all for a novel published in 1920, eh? And you can find The Slayer of Souls for free too, since it's in the public domain. I forgot where I found my copy, but I'll be glad to put that in my Dropbox too if anyone asks for it. Just be warned that the rest of the novel isn't anywhere near as hot as this scene; it's all very, very Christian; and Chambers thinks socialism and "lamaism" (by which I think he means Buddhism) are tools of the devil. The best thing about it, IMO, is its secret feminism. I'm not sure Chambers himself knew what he was implying by making Tressa the most powerful character in the book.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Okay, so here's the plan

I am now officially off hiatus and back to writing.

One thing that kept me from announcing this earlier is that I couldn't decide what to write. I know a lot of you are waiting for the CYOA sequel to Transfixed, and I want to give it to you as soon as possible. But writing a CYOA is like climbing Mount Everest: it's a huge task, and the events of this year had left me feeling very intimidated. Meanwhile, for about the last month, another story had sprung up in my mind without any conscious decision to write something new. It began with a vague idea I'd had for years, but then out of nowhere characters and scenes started writing themselves in my head; and they did it mostly at night while I was trying to get to sleep. That meant, of course, that I wasn't sleeping, not very well anyway.

So here's what I've decided. I'm going to do the new story first and try to use it as a base camp, acclimatizing me for the CYOA which will be my climb up Mount Everest. But right now I'll try to give you enough details about Transfixed to settle your cravings, I'll tell you a bit about the new story, and I'll offer a tease about a little side project I might do.

Transfixed first. My previous CYOA was sort of an exploration: you could do a lot of different things, sometimes just for fun; and you could reach a lot of different endings, none of which were technically wins or losses. Depending on your tastes, any of the outcomes might float your boat. But the Transfixed CYOA will work more like a game with a definite objective. If you play as Jason and Rebekah, your objective will to save Captain Sato. It can be done - and you can also save Captain Stone and stop the ticks for good, if you play well enough. Alternately, you can play as Nils (the half-crazed Swede from the refrigerator) and have a more mysterious adventure. You can only learn about Nils by playing as him, and his original objective will change as the plot moves along. His story is a bit more like a typical video game, with more strategizing and more shooting (if you want shooting, that is); and he, too, has a chance to stop the ticks for good.

Now about this new story. My working title is "Brainwashing of the Rich and Famous," but I'm not sure what percentage of my readership would get that reference. Please leave me some comments about that to help me decide, and if my plot description gives you an idea for a different title, let me know. If I use it, I'll give you full credit and a free book. This story is going to have a little bit of a trilby else/Dormignonne vibe, in that vacationers travel to an island paradise where they're gradually sucked into slavery. But in my story, the vacationers are all rich and famous, and they've come for a half hippy, half New Age retreat that promises to make them better people...and to give them lots of sex along the way. But everything they say and do, everything they eat and drink, is really designed to suck them into a cult. I'm trying to use real-world methods for this part of the story (sleep deprivation, for instance), so that will be a change for me. Then there's a second, more intensive retreat where they're completely stripped of their personalities; and since they've already been brainwashed into believing everything the retreat leaders tell them, they go along with the new, stricter agenda and never question what's happening. As for the ending, well, I think you can guess.

Finally, there's another quick project I'm contemplating. I feel sure I'll do this at some point, but I don't know when. It could be this year or next. I've said before that I have a YouTube channel, and recently I uploaded some clips from an old B&W movie called White Zombie. It can be taken as a story about MC just as much as a story about zombification, and the female lead has a wonderful trance face. Well, the movie is in the public domain, and I've been thinking about how I could edit and rearrange some scenes to erase the happy ending and give it the kind of slap-in-the-face MC ending that pervs like us prefer. But don't worry; my new story will have first priority. I might do the White Zombie thing one weekend if I need a break, but it's definitely on the back burner. You can see the original clips on my YouTube channel now, though.