So, I’m going to sit back and enjoy a beer while we enjoy the ride together…
One Horror Writer’s Definition of an Undefined Genre
Horror; the very word makes people giddy with anticipation. We all long to be spooked, creeped out, thrilled, gored out, and given nightmares because of the adrenaline rush that good scary story gives us all. Horror is a genre that has been around since storytelling existed; we have the monster myths, the folklore, the stay-away-warning stories, but what does it mean to make something scary and how do we keep people coming back for more?
What makes a good scary story, scary?
It’s the anticipation of the characters slowly moving down the hallway and the sudden KNOCK on the window. It’s the eerie music that plays in the background of a black and white vampire flick. It’s the unmistakable silhouette of the killer and the blood curdling scream that follows. Horror is the anticipation that drags you in; dangles you like bobble in mid-air, swinging violently from the thin cord it’s hanging upon. You bite your lip and hold onto with jagged breath; your heart races and your eyes are glued open. Everything is on pins and needles as you wait… patiently wait. For the unexpected; a sudden noise from off-screen or movement; it’s that anticipation and clever wordplay that turns a story into a nightmare.
But it’s not just the anticipation; it’s the intensity, the dialogue, and the ‘holy hell, what was that?’ Horror is one of those genres that will never get old or dissolve because people like being scared. People like screaming in the theatre and covering their eyes only to open them when chainsaw meets flesh. We love that feeling of a cold sweat and we love… not… knowing… what’s next. Whether its blood and gore, a zombie apocalypse, or a group of foul-tempered ghosts, we want it and we want more.
Haunted houses do it best. We hear they’re the scary places in the world and we want to go. No one likes to be scared but we want to go! We want to see if it lives up to the hype and causes us night terrors well until Christmas. We want to retell our experiences to others so that they can be scared, too! We want something come out and grab us only so that we can scream bloody murder. Writers dig deep down into the recesses of their minds and create monsters and situations that can be so scary, they leave us all catatonic. And it’s all adrenaline.
We know those monsters aren’t real; the guys in the haunted houses are painted up and acting. Vampires don’t exist, though zombies are a possibility but nothing yet. Ghosts can be exorcised and clowns aren’t that bad. So what’s the deal with the love of thrills and chills? The feeling of them is amazing. We want more of it and we want new and exciting versions without hesitation. We dress in costumes on Halloween to scare each other while eating ghost-shaped candies. And we do it with a smile because let’s be honest: it’s fun scaring people. And people have fun being scared. That’s why horror is still around and that’s why it won’t go anywhere. Horror will forever have its place in our hearts, ready and willing to scare it straight out of our chests!
And now, here is a taste of…
The Coven by Angie Gallow
London – 1910
“Tell me again,” Maurice Sorel paced his office furiously. “What happened?”
Sebastien Vilmont leaned against a polished end table. He was battered, covered in dirt and grime. His trousers were grey in patches from colliding with the ground; his blouse held tears and was spotted with drying blood. He wiped his mouth with one hand while the other hand held him against the table.
“I told you. We were ambushed,” Sebastien claimed. He had taken his hand away from his mouth and looked at Maurice. His deep jade eyes glowed behind the roaring fireplace. He and Maurice studied one another before Maurice turned away to his desk where a crystal bottle filled with red liquid awaited him. Maurice lifted the plug from the bottle with nervous hands and poured the contents into three matching crystal glasses. He passed one to Sebastien and the other to his son, Alaric, as he stood at his friend’s side.
The office door was locked and the three men stood alone. The stillness lingered heavily on the room. Sebastien watched Maurice sip from his glass as he moved in circles reminding Sebastien of a caged panther. Sebastien leaned forward to relieve his frame from the ache careening up his spine as he leaned against the table. The crackling fire was soon the only sound in the room before Alaric eased forward.
“There must be something you’re not telling us. Please. There were supposed to be more with you.”
Sebastien pressed his lips together and locked eyes with his old friend. They had known one another since they were small boys, causing mischief and conjuring grand adventures. Alaric eyed his friend intently as his eyes coaxed out the answer. Sebastien knitted his brow. The story he had shared with them earlier of how he had arrived was not what he had experienced.
Upon his arrival, Sebastien claimed that it was merely an accident; an unfortunate event that chopped the traveling party from twenty to merely seven. Maurice finished his drink and turned to Sebastien with hard, demanding eyes. Sebastien saw the disappointment growing in the man’s hazel stare. Maurice would hold him accountable and make him suffer for something that was not Sebastien’s doing. Sebastien leaned forward and stood straighter while he eyed Maurice.
“I did nothing wrong.”
“Then explain!” Maurice barked. His voice echoed off the walls and Sebastien’s eyes angled downward towards his shoes. Those very shoes that ran and led his party away from a massacre; the very shoes he stood in were now calling him a coward. He looked up in an attempt to hide his shame.
Sebastien had been heralded from his home in Normandy through a letter from Alaric. It asked his friend to complete the task of leading a small group of vampires from Sebastien’s hometown to London. The letter asked that Sebastien remain in complete secrecy and to rally the travelers as quickly as possible. Sebastien found his party, per the details in the letter, waiting for him outside of an inn on the edge of their city; all had been sent invitations to London by Maurice, himself.
Sebastien looked upon the nervous eyes of every traveler, each one not knowing whether to trust Sebastien even after his explanation of what was going to take place from that point on.
Once Sebastien had successfully reassured them, explaining who he was and why he had been asked to lead them, the travelers followed him out of the city without question.
“I got them all to the ferry without an issue…” Sebastien explained. Alaric and Maurice listened to the story with bated breath. “I watched everything. People, where we were, and what we were being told; there was nothing that caused me to suspect a thing.”
Sebastien’s party had vanished below the decks of the ferry with only the porters to notice them as they went about their work. One man, Sebastien recalled, had been watching them closely from the moment they all set foot on deck. The man’s beetle black eyes peered at Sebastien, in particular. Sebastien thought the man was only curious of them or perhaps questioning why so many people were traveling as one across the English Channel in the middle of the night. Sebastien regretted to admit his carelessness, but the man knew who, or rather what, they were.
The party moved through a series of small towns and villages after the ferry landed in England. Sebastien claimed he did nothing but travel with caution. He told everyone to keep away from mortals, speak to no one unless absolutely mandatory, and that they would not tarry in one place for too long. He braced himself as he paused.
“In one town, I can’t remember the name of the place, I had snuck us out of the hotel after midnight. We were barely on the edge of the town and getting closer to London,” Sebastien spoke as though he were trying to remember a pressing dream. He recalled the events with great hesitation, pawing his lips with the palm of his hand as he picked apart his memory. Alaric nudged him to continue. Sebastien snatched his hand away from his mouth.
By the time they had gained a few miles between London and the town they left behind, Sebastien noticed that the group was silently and suddenly being followed. Even though they were travelling under a starless sky, their tracks were being carefully pursued by a group of hooded figures. Sebastien believed the men following them had spread themselves out among the trees that surrounded their path. Their pursuers resembled moving shadows.
Panic washed over the travelers and they all darted out of the clearing. Bushes rustled loudly as the hooded men sprung out of their hiding places. The chaos of the growing chase erupted into a multitude of screams as the scurrying vampires attempted to escape. Yet, for some reason, these men were faster than the vampires, grabbing them in mid-run and flinging them to the ground. Once the vampires hit the ground, a hatchet came down and heads were severed from their bodies.
Sebastien ran with the herd while dodging grabbing claws and swinging hatchets as the chase continued. Sebastien had seen the members of his traveling party being picked apart from foolish acts such as stopping momentarily or trying to hide behind trees and in the darkened brush. Blood coated the grass and spattered against the trees like a piece of haphazard artwork.
Sebastien had been grabbed from behind as his captor snatched him around the shoulders and wrestled Sebastien to the ground. His captor lost his balance as they struggled before they toppled down into a grassy ditch. Sebastien grabbed hold of his attacker’s robe and flung him into a nearby tree. He made an attempt to climb out of the ditch but was caught by his ankle.
The hood of his foe had fallen off, revealing golden hair that reflected in the moon light. The pale hand that grabbed at Sebastien’s ankle matched the other holding a hatchet above him that was ready to land on Sebastien’s head the second he was pulled down. Sebastien was mortified at the sight of his assailant; a fellow vampire was gazing up at him with malicious eyes. With a forceful tug, Sebastien was yanked back down into the ditch.
Sebastien took hold of the vampire’s wrist as his foe’s hatchet came roaring down. The bone beneath the skin crushed and popped as Sebastien’s grip tightened. The hatchet fell to the ground as pale fingers uncurled from around the handle of the axe. Sebastien slashed his attacker’s throat with such force that his head was thrown from his body. Sebastien tossed away the headless corpse and climbed out from the trench. He found his way back to his party and found that nearly all of them were either missing or dead.
Sebastien stopped his story again. Alaric saw the distress across his friend’s face and refilled his short glass of the red liquid. Sebastien sighed greatly and poured the tangy liquor down his throat. He nearly slammed the glass down and caught Maurice’s eyes again. They were softer this time, in disbelief at the details of the story. Sebastien’s eyes asked if he were allowed to continue. Maurice simply nodded his head lightly.
Sebastien had taken count of his company once they reached the outskirts of the great city. He would occasionally stop to look over his shoulder as he was not certain if his party was being pursued. He had finally stopped them on a deserted street corner. He leaned against a lit street lamp and pulled a piece of paper from his pocket. It was an expertly drawn map with heavy-leaded pencil with dotted markings to show their way.
He led his frightened party towards their destination until they came to a quiet neighborhood in Whitechapel. They passed through the streets as Sebastien ran his fingertips against the bricks of a wall before his fingers grazed the coolness of a metal door hinge. He took a step back and scanned the bricks carefully before his eyes saw the illusion in front of him.
A heavy door had been camouflaged within the bricks had been made to resemble the color of the graying mortar. Sebastien used his hand to feel for the invisible knocker; its sound echoed throughout the alleyway. The travelers huddled against him, taking the appearance of a scruffy band of carolers.
Sebastien removed a black case from an inside pocket in his jacket. He pulled a thin, black cigarette from within. He lit a match with shaking hands and held it to the tip of his cigarette, inhaled and exhaled a stream of red smoke into the office. It was only moments after that he had been brought to Maurice and Alaric once the pair had realized that the party was short in count from the number of travelers they instructed Sebastien to bring to London.
He turned his head lightly to indicate his story had ended. Maurice was working on his third glass, swirling the liquid back and forth while weighing Sebastien’s tale. Maurice’s brow began twisting in fury before his glass flew from his hands into the fireplace with a sharp yell. The glass shattered and popped as flamed licked the shards; the two friends reeled back from Maurice’s temper.
“All of them?” Maurice demanded, spinning to face Sebastien. Sebastien knew he has referring to the hooded vampires from his tale and nodded. Maurice growled through his teeth, “Unspeakable betrayal!”
Alaric started to speak but stopped himself. His father’s fury was not to be pacified so he folded his arms and bit into his knuckles to keep himself silent. Maurice continued thundering, “Using our own kind against us…” Maurice took a breath, “Those damn fear-twisted mortals using vampires as weapons!”
“Father,” Alaric stated and Maurice whirled to face him, “The Diocese Club has been trying to get rid of us for centuries! They’re just as unknown to the mortals as we are…”
Maurice snapped, cutting his son off, “There is no reason for vampires to slay their own kind! If those priests so desire a war with us, they will have one!”
Sebastien’s mouth felt as though it were suddenly filled with cotton. The Diocese Club had constructed plans to rid the known world of all unholy creatures, including vampires. Vampires were seen as forces of evil; demon-possessed corpses used by Satan to terrorize the living. They were an elusive organization known only to the Catholic Church and the vampires who survived their attacks. Sebastien licked his lips, knowing what would happen should Maurice attempt such a campaign. Having witnessed the horror himself, he spoke, “May I interject for a moment?” Maurice rounded on him, “I think it would be in our best interest not to start something we cannot finish.”
“Beg your pardon?” Maurice narrowed his eyes, “Look at you!” he motioned with his hands, “Look at those who arrived with you!”
Maurice’s attempt to shame Sebastien was futile. Sebastien rubbed his forehead.
“Yes, look at what is happening to us all. The Diocese Club, we have no idea how many there are. We do not have a clue as to what they know of us. And we know nothing of them! How can we fight a war without knowledge of the enemy?”
Maurice eyed Sebastien. “We know our own kind.” Maurice smirked wickedly, “That is all that matters.”
After a gruesome betrayal, vampire Sebastien Vilmont is flung into a whirlwind cat and mouse game when his traveling party is ambushed by an opposing group of bloodthirsty vampires. Maurice, the leader of Sebastien’s coven, makes the decision to not only wage war against the opposing vampire clan, but a clerical organization known as The Diocese Club who wishes to exterminate all vampire-kind.
Trying desperately to protect the secrecy of their coven’s location below the streets of Whitechapel, London, Sebastien finds himself at odds with Maurice in his desire to not engage in all-out war with the renegade Catholic faction. At the same time, he must also battle the other vampire coven to guard their anonymity from humans. In doing so, Sebastien is forced into choices and alliances he might not otherwise have made.
Set in the tone of Victorian England, The Coven is a thrilling and horrific journey through the seedier workings of the vampire underworld, and pious ideology of The Diocese Club.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Angie Gallow was born in Chicago and currently attends Columbia College Chicago. This is her first novel.
Sirens Call Publications will be giving away digital copies of The Coven by Angie Gallow to 5 (five) lucky winners! Follow the link to enter for your chance to win!