Chilling Excerpts from HIDEOUS FACES, BEAUTIFUL SKULLS

Hideous Faces, Beautiful Skulls

Above you will see the cover art of my new story collection, HIDEOUS FACES, BEAUTIFUL SKULLS, from Wildside Press. In this collection of thirty stories of horror and the bizarre, you shall enter a boundless realm of dark magic, evil glamour, and strange love. As with any collection of my work, you will encounter monsters aplenty: magic zombies, evil cats, alien lovers, aquatic humanoids, a vicious Egyptian monstrosity, Internet witches, ghouls and others that defy description.

Below you will find some excerpts from some of the stories:

—–

An excerpt from “Hungry For Faces”…

Michael walked up to the door and looked inside.

The blue light came from a tinted bulb in a shadeless lamp. Thin copper wires were strung across the room at various levels; every piece of furniture seemed to be caught up in the tangle. The breeze from a fan on high-power made the wires hum. On a brass bed in the center of the room reclined a pale man, bundled in quilts and pillows. His long black hair was thick and coarse, like a horse’s mane. He wore a tattered bathrobe over a gray sweatsuit. Michael decided the pale man was probably twenty-five, just a few years younger than himself.

Michael brushed a hand over the lump in his pants pocket. He had a roll of bills totalling three-hundred dollars, in case the pale man had a price. “I met somebody in a bar – a mechanic. He’d told me you made his wife go away.” It dawned on Michael that the mechanic might have violated a trust. “You can’t really blame him for talking. He’d had a lot to drink and … well, I bought him a few drinks, too. He seemed pretty miserable.”

The pale man shrugged. “No worry. I appreciate references, if discretion is observed. I’m sure Mr. Curtis has selected well. My name is Card.”

“I’m Michael. I guess you don’t really want to know who I am, though, since you told me to cover my face.” He twanged at one of the copper wires. “What’s with the spiderweb?”

“Be careful, will you?” Card nodded as Michael stilled the vibrating wire with a fingertip. “Yes, it is like a spiderweb, isn’t it? Except there’s no pattern. Still, do you see the appeal? Everything connected to everything. Beautiful, like a work of art.”

“Can I get through?”

A brief, worried look crossed Card’s face. “I suppose so.” The pale man watched intently as Michael threaded his way across the room. “Careful there, a wire is snagged on your coat. And your handkerchief is coming loose. Don’t let it fall off. If you should ever show me your face, I would want it to be a conscious choice.”

—–

An excerpt from “The Voice of the Pangyricon”….

Something horrible stepped off the platform.

It was a corpse. A walking corpse with blue skin, streaked with dust and what looked like thick strands of yellowish-green cobwebs. Its eyes were tightly squinted shut. Its face was smeared with blood and strings of fresh meat hung from its broken teeth.

“Attention, Daniel!” I screamed to the Pangyricon’s computer system. “Daniel, help us! Activate security alert!” None of us had any weapons. There had never been any need for them.

“Interesting!” the computer said in its higher voice of excitement. “I’ve completed a brain-scan on this being and though the organ is profoundly altered, I can detect familiar patterns. That is my original body.”

“Don’t just scan that thing!” Remson said as he came out of the chamber. “Activate security alert!”

“Yes! Look what it did to the calf!” Quinn cried.

“I detect animal blood, but no animal,” the computer said. “I cannot activate a security alert based on an external occurrence.”

The creature’s eyes slowly opened, revealing twin milky-white orbs. Apparently it had needed some time to get used to the light. It rushed to the door, which slid open, like all work area doors when somebody stepped up to them. The thing then raced down the hall….

—–

An excerpt from “You Shall Have This Delicacy”…

Mrs. Vultaine had invited six to dinner; invited them with crisp black cards, the message embossed in gold leaf. Each guest had been instructed to bring one companion. Thirteen at table did not fret the hostess: this was a woman who had survived strange diseases, stranger travels, and far too many years of perilous existence. Thirteen? Pshaw. Just another number.

The widow walked tall through the dining room, observing, correcting, at times praising her servants during preparations for the evening. She wore black silk pants and a matching blouse with the shoulders cut out. She knew this was a very young fashion, but no matter. She had a beautiful face, regally angular and as pale as milk; long, silver hair; even, white teeth; and soft, fine-boned hands, anointed with expensive creams. And she still had smooth, lovely shoulders: this the world had a right to know, and she refused to hide them.

A sad-eyed maid with delicate features poured nuts into a crystal dish.

“Just a moment, my dear,” Mrs. Vultaine said, her voice an imperious warble. Her right hand fluttered at eye level, punctuating, emphasizing. “Cashews? Oh, no, no, no. Certainly my guests would not care for cashews.”

“We’re out of morroka seeds,” the maid whispered. “I found these in the servants’ pantry. They’re very good. And they look the same.”

“And you look like a melancholy puppy. Does that mean I feed you scraps and make you do your business outside?” The widow rolled her eyes and sighed. “If you like them so much, take them to your room. And set out praku berries for my guests. I know we have buckets of them somewhere.”

The maid picked up the dish and walked a few paces. Then she stopped and turned around. “Please don’t fire me. I know I’m common. But I can’t help it.”

Mrs. Vultaine stepped forward and placed a cool hand on the girl’s cheek. “Your tastes are common. But you … you, Vexina … are not common.” She ran her fingers lightly over the servant’s coiffure – a pinned bundle of thick auburn hair. “I would never surround myself with common sorts. Now off with you, puppy. There’s work to be done.”

The maid flashed a nervous smile and hurried off.

The widow turned her attention to the table settings. Five forks, five spoons, three knives per plate – and such plates. Plates of glass, gold, silver and polished bone: no two were alike. Green lizard-fat candles. Napkins with a pattern – goats, moths and daggers –matching that of the tapestries on the walls.

She entered the great hall to make sure the display was in order. The curious objet, or perhaps objets, d’art would amuse and surely disconcert her guests. This pile of gleaming metal appeared to be composed of parts from a disassembled golden harpy. A wing and a ribcage topped the pile; around the edges, one could detect a spine, a hip, and some extravagant clockwork organs.

—–

Need ordering information? Here’s the Amazon.com link:

http://www.amazon.com/Hideous-Faces-Beautiful-Skulls-McLaughlin/dp/1479401889/

Thanks! 🙂

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About bmoviemonster

Horror author Mark McLaughlin’s fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in more than one-thousand magazines, newspapers, websites, and anthologies, including Cemetery Dance, Black Gate, Galaxy, Fangoria, Writer’s Digest, Midnight Premiere, Dark Arts, and two volumes each of The Best of the Rest, The Best of HorrorFind, and The Year’s Best Horror Stories (DAW Books). He is the author of many books of horror, so be sure to visit his Amazon Author's Page at http://www.amazon.com/Mark-McLaughlin/e/B008QCY4TC/
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