Steven Marshall Horror
"Stephen King is the emperor of horror, Marshall is the law!"
-New Blood Magazine
About the Book
"The Dark Art of Wonder" picks up where "Rituals of Terror" left off. Alex Diamond faces a whole new dilemma trapped inside his skipping nightmare...
“The Dark Art of Wonder” is a tribute to the dark side of life within the human mind. One where the bright sunny world on the surface becomes overshadowed by dark undercurrents of true human nature. It’s the real world from behind our eyes as depicted by our mind. A world of dark philosophy that challenges our benign beliefs from that which we were told growing up. It’s the forbidden thoughts in the darkest recesses of our imaginations come to life.
The lost souls of the dead have found a way to enter your dreams and take over your identity. You may still look the same, but a new host has evicted you from your body and assumed control …A middle-aged couple seeking a fountain of youth find their wish in the form of a drink served by a smooth-talking bartender, but at what price?...The midnight ghost train arrives once every four years to collect the souls of the dead. A misfit group of graverunners chance their luck at evading the unrelenting Soul Bearer and facing his wrath… Flaky pastries and home cooking aren't all that's being served up at this haunted Bed & Breakfast with an Innkeeper who harbors a secret about the legacy of the Inn and its Curse of the Keepers... A strange young female tour guide escorts a group of friends through the woods and deeper into the forests of their imagination, where their greatest fears are soon realized.Here you’ll find select short stories in the first hand, imaginative murder mystery plots, along with dark philosophical stories that challenge the God concept and question the universe. Indulge in dark faery tales for adults that are riddles to the reader. Become absorbed by the introspective post mortem script of a man nearing death …it’s all brilliantly intertwined in this deliciously wicked, disturbingly provocative journal of a madman, who must tell the world his unique story, or at least die trying in an effort to break the spell of his dream world!
Scene from the novel
By the time Jeff shut out the lights and got under the covers, it was 11:44 . He made damn sure to turn off the alarm clock so he could get some rest finally. No work tomorrow meant he could sleep in late. He didn't realize how tired he was until now, as the events of both the day and week left him exhausted. He tried shutting his eyes but was still restless in thought. He lay for a minute in the void of silence and tried blocking everything out of his mind. Just as he was starting to drift off, he thought he heard something. He opened his eyes briefly but heard nothing more, so he dismissed it -- then another sound roused him, this time closer …
From a near distance outside his home, he heard a muffled scraping noise. As he listened closer, he could almost hear the jingling of chains. He suspected it could be someone digging out snow from around their vehicle and chaining the tires, but that was absurd. There had been no snow on the ground for weeks. So what was causing that sound? He listened carefully. The scraping sound returned. Like someone dragging a shovel along the pavement. More chains clanging, sounding closer still. He sat up in bed but then the sounds instantly subsided. He listened some more, still nothing. He lay back down and started dozing off again.
A more urgent sound like something banging abruptly woke him. He sat up and saw the red glow of his alarm clock in the darkness. It was 11:55 , so he hadn't been sleeping for long. This time it sounded like it came from just outside his house, perhaps his front porch. “I'm coming,” he called out to the darkness, half asleep. The sound of his own voice awakened him to the absurdity of what he'd uttered. Had these last few months of solitude exacted a strange price on his sanity, or was his loneliness conjuring bizarre and paranoid events in his imagination? The source of the sounds seemed to emanate somewhere between his brain and just outside his bedroom curtains, yet he couldn't be certain. He all of a sudden felt like a child hiding under his covers for security. Who's to say there wasn't a burglar trying to invade his home? Normally he wasn't so irrational with his fears, but working on a story like this left him spooked by every little thing. He remained under the blanket nervously with his eyes closed and door locked.
A waning drone of half-thrilled, half-horrified voices filled the background of his imagination as the darkness magnified around him under the covers. Now he would be more sensitive to sound under this veil of darkness. He was also picking up a faint musty odor in the air. Beneath him he could now hear his floorboards creaking, consistently bending on the staircase with seemingly invisible footsteps. Every so often he'd hear a soft hollow thud, which Jeff thought to be his hot water pipes expanding and contracting. Both the noises together felt a little creepy, but the house was old and floorboards do creak. Something felt like it was drawing nearer in the dark. Jeff listened with increasing vigilance but heard nothing for a while. Then something sounded like it was as the top of the staircase! Soft explosions like joints cracking or bones creaking filled the hallway...
He considered that he gave his imagination more credit than it deserved, living alone and being alone. The dark echoes of midlife senility or loneliness were creeping inward with each ounce of darkness in the room. This triggered his irrational fears to that time of his childhood, suspecting a faceless monster burrowed somewhere in his closet. Had so much changed in twenty years that he could address the unknown any differently? Had living alone changed the perspective of being an only child to even have another viewpoint? Now all those lost, buried-in-the-closet fears suddenly came out of the closet and into reality. Was a monster lurking within so far fetched from what he thought was stalking him now? All these aspects combined seemed to diminish his confidence and shrink him further into himself. Who was there to protect him from the unknown element now?
Something within the darkness had somehow awakened his deepest insecurities. Suddenly his heart was standing up against his chest, as were the hairs on his arms. He could almost sense something in the corner of his eye; something inescapable. In no time at all, Jeff had suddenly reverted into that child again, only now he couldn't call out to his parents and make the monster go away. There was nothing to interrupt the darkness with daylight. His primal fears seemed an innate instinct of his inner child, which he now had to confront in the form of a real life demon.
Jeff quietly pulled himself out of bed not wanting to be discovered and crawled underneath it. He thought about escaping from the window, but there wasn't enough time without being heard. His heartbeat sounded as loud as a drum now that the rain had stopped. He lay with his face and his ear compressed to the floor, listening intently as the silence almost screamed out to him. His adult self was still trying to deny these events with rationale. Normally he was not this passive at the threat of danger, but a strange feeling washed over him that perhaps this time he'd brought something back with him. This did not have the earthly feel of a burglar, but something more intangible like a fear of the unknown. Maybe tonight's visit to the cemetery gave him more than the exclusive story he wanted.
With one eye wide open peeking under the bed skirt and through the crack of the door, Jeff could see the silhouette of a shadow and froze to the spot. His felt his legs become liquefied in their own paralysis as he tried to hold in his breath so as to make the smallest possible sound. His eye bulged in awe as he watched the dim illumination under the crack of the door and saw movement. He saw the knob of his bedroom door turning, even though he remembered locking it. The door creaked open halfway as Jeff scurried back toward the wall underneath the bed. Something was in the room with him! This he was not imagining. He could hear guttural breaths and a raspy wheezing just over his bed. He saw decrepit feet under where the covers were draped and felt the weight of something pressing down on the bed, when suddenly…
© Copyright Steven Marshall 2005.
All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or republished by any means without the prior permission of the author. This is an original work protected under U.S. law.