Yes, that creaking is the sound of the Ghastling crypt cracking open for the first time this year, as we reveal the eight writers who will feature in our fifteenth issue, due for release next month. Finding strangeness in the familiar is a horror trope that’s as old as the genre itself, so it’s always a joy to find writers who can tread this motif’s well-worn boards and still offer up something that feels fresh and exciting. The following eight writers have done exactly that, uncovering the macabre in the familiar territories of home, work, family and community. And, as some of their stories show, even the very intimate space of our own body can betray us.
The Ghastling Book Fifteen Line-Up
Laura Lee Lucas
This issue will also feature the artistic talents of Zuzanna Kwiecien and Claire L. Smith, who are both returning to our pages to contribute images that we hope will haunt the waking dreams of Ghastling readers.
Thank you so much to everyone who submitted stories and artwork for this issue. The quality of submissions was incredibly high, and it was such a difficult task to whittle over 150 submissions down into the final eight stories below. With each issue we have to leave many good stories behind, so if you weren’t successful this time then please do consider us sending more of your work, we’d really love the opportunity to read it. Our next submission window will open later this year – keep an eye out on our social media channels for updates.
And now, a little more about these eight stories of strangeness in the familiar…
In Steven Sheil’s domestic horror, expectant father Carl decides to decorate THE PLAYROOM, choosing the colour as a peace offering to his pregnant wife. But opening the old paint tin they’d found in the basement releases more than just fumes, and soon Carl is transported to a strange mirror image of his home, filled with the noises of cavorting animals, squawking birds and the cries of his unborn child.
In HOUSEHOLD, Laura Lee Lucas’ child narrator watches the comings and goings of the red house across the street. When the red house’s owner Miss Estelle passes away on Halloween night, Daddy says the ambulance men have taken her away. So why, then, is Miss Estelle standing under the big oak tree in her pink bathrobe and slippers? And who else, over the course of this chilling flash fiction, will join her?
Pamela Koehne-Drube’s body horror THE ANATOMICAL VENUS gives us a history lesson in 18th-century anatomical models through the eyes of lonely museum curator Dr. Keane, whose only companion in life seems to be the centrepiece of the museum’s collection: an alluring cadaver in pearls, sculpted in wax two centuries prior. That is until the arrival of Dr. Evans, whose intentions of business soon give way to pleasure. But there’s something about this fellow curator that seems incredibly familiar…
People with common sense don’t drive at night through the Berry-Sologne, but with an unwell grandmother somewhere within its tall dark trees, that’s exactly what the narrator must do in Astrid Vallet’s superb stream-of-consciousness tale LA MALBÊTE. As dense fog whirls around both the road and the narrator’s mind, the belling of the deer is replaced by more sinister noises in the underwood. The only solution is to keep driving…
Barry Charman’s COUNT POLLEN is a folk horror told in interview scraps – as if the Blair Witch had a cousin based in the idyllic English countryside. The eponymous figure of the Count is at the centre of an urban legend steeped in warning, but that isn’t enough to stop our inquisitive narrator pursuing the story to the field where black flowers curl like little hands.
Winona has returned home to help her mother and sisters through A DEATH IN THE FAMILY, but the expected death of her ill father never arrives in Maud Woolf’s tale of dark reflections. Instead, Winona finds herself trapped in her childhood home – a house where things aren’t quite as she remembers, but still her father locks the door to keep them safe, just like when they were children.
Change is the reason why Marla visits THE OLD MAN in the woods – life had been much simpler before the cramps, the blood and the swelling in unwanted places. Marla hears from her classmates that the old man can remove what is unwanted, but unfortunately she wants him to take too much in Elin Olausson’s disquieting parable of the danger and despair that surrounds body dysmorphia.
And finally, COMING OR GOING by David Towsey takes us to a dystopia of the near future: a landscape familiar in its fish and chips, train stations and children’s playgrounds, but where oddness and insecurity reign. And what was that flash of grubby white across the tracks? Why is it that something so quotidian – so everyday – is so feared?
Each of these eight tales offers a descent from the familiar into places alien and uncanny. After reading them, you might begin to see a strangeness in the familiar yourself: an unexpected shape in the corner of your eye, maybe, or an odd noise in the night that you can’t quite place. We take no responsibility for you becoming more attuned to these things. Perhaps you will find comfort, though, when we assure you that they have always been there, in the periphery, waiting to be seen.