Sunday, October 29, 2017


On Christmas Eve in 2009, I shot awake in the darkness of our old house struggling to breathe. I'd just experienced one of the most terrifying and memorable nightmares of my life. In it, I was walking along New Hampshire's Route 93, surrounded by devastation and other survivors of an alien invasion. Chasing us was an enormous vortex, which looked like a massive bruise in the sky. A tornado touched down from the vortex, and, right before waking up, I felt myself being drawn up into its maw. My last memory was of looking into the vortex and seeing a hateful alien face, massive, unforgettable, merciless. Dating back to when I was fifteen, the year I had that big Eureka! moment about living the writing life, I've penned an entire short story on Christmas Day. That year was no different. Possessed by the same lingering terror that chased me through the dream, I put pen to paper and bled out the words. By the time dinner came out of the oven, I had a completed first draft.

I sent out "Vortex" several times in 2010, and had quite a few near misses. As other projects and deadlines drew my focus, I stopped sending the story out -- until this year, when I read the call for Franklin/Kerr Press's apocalyptic-themed anthology, Down With the Fallen. Not long after submitting, I received a glowing acceptance by editor Jordon Greene. Down will soon be released, containing work by an amazing group of authors. Many shared the back-stories behind their stories in Down With the Fallen.

J.C. Raye on "To Market, To Market": "Justice. Interesting word, isn’t it? Sometimes, in the darkest place of our heart, we’d maybe like to see a little more of it rear its head, now and again. For real. For…right. Witness it dispensed a little more evenly. More publicly. Over a wider array of truly worthy recipients. For example, do you secretly wish that driver who ran the red in front of you would accidentally wrap their Hummer around an oak? No deaths or injuries or anything like that. Just a trashed car. Well, of course not! Evil to even think about. Would you love to see that shoplifter discover an angry scorpion in their jacket pocket, replacing the stolen pair of earrings dropped there only moments before? Please. What’s a few baubles in the scheme of things? Ever fantasize about making that oh so delicious short film, documenting your neighbor’s majestic belly flop into his pool while still collecting state disability payments? Oh no. Not you. Not your brother’s keeper and all that jazz, right? But hey, what if there was someone who could dispense that kind of justice? We’re talking payback folks. Accurate, swift, righteous. And right to your door."

Garrett R. Kirby on "The Other": "I will never forget coming up with my idea for ‘The Other’. I was suffering from a serious case of insomnia at the time, and it was somewhere around five in the morning. My alarm wouldn’t go off for another hour, but suddenly, in that odd state between consciousness and dreaming, I found myself imagining something that truly horrified me. It was the idea of a mother, carrying two unborn twins, dying of exposure in a nuclear fallout. The idea was that while she lay dying, something alien had sprung up in her womb, and began leaching life off of the fetuss’, creating this symbiotic relationship that caused this thing -- this Other -- to grow from the radiation, while also keeping the fetuses alive, meshing with them like some mutant cancer. The thought chilled me to the bone, and while none of this is directly in ‘The Other’, you do certainly see the aftermath: a world where these monstrous Others have become the apex predators; things which must be avoided by the remaining humans at all costs. I also thought it would be a bit more frightening if that little tumor wasn’t quite so small anymore…"

Jeremy Megargee on "The Rip": "Limax maximus literally translates to “biggest slug”, and I’ll be the first to tell you, these slimy bastards are BIG. Another common name for them is the leopard slug, and if you live in North America, chances are you’ve seen them sliming across your porch or your deck on a damp night and leaving a trail of grimy mucus in their wake. If you’re ever bored after midnight, take a seat and watch their progress. There’s something alien about their movements. The twisted contortions of their bulging forms mesmerize and repulse all at the same time. And on some level, if you watch them, you get the strange feeling that those stalk eyes are watching you right back. I’d watch these creepy little crawlies as a kid, and I guess something about it resonated, and that memory became the inspiration for ‘The Rip’. There’s something otherworldly about a slug, and I did my best to expand upon that concept. Don’t take my word for it. Watch them. Study them. Marvel at them."

Tobey Alexander on "Thirteen Days": "‘Thirteen Days’ was born from a whim but ended up being something to test me as a writer. I’ve always focussed on longer stories and thought I’d challenge myself to write a short story, it was October so the Halloween mood took me. When I asked my helpers (my two sons who thankfully often act as my brainstorming medium) they told me I should write a zombie story. I was worried about being too cliché and sat down to think how I would want it to be different, a little away from the norm and yet chilling in itself. I came up with the idea of taking a first person perspective. Not only did I decide to write a short story where I normally write novels or novelettes, I wrote in the first person instead of the third and so ‘Thirteen Days’ became my ‘out of my comfort zone’ tester. Hopefully, I’ve given you all something entertaining and chilling at the same time with a little feeling of humanity in a situation where humankind is not necessarily top of the food chain anymore. That said, what really separates us from the monsters? I’d guess...not a lot!"

Jack Lothian on "Men of Tomorrow": "It was a few years ago, Halloween night. We were making our way home in the wee small hours. The streets weren’t exactly empty but most of the parties were over. As we crossed over the main road, we passed a small alleyway and I could see someone standing at the end it. It was man, dressed in tights and a cape, an emblem on his front, hair slicked into a S-curl that had got messier as the evening had gone on. He was staring off into the distance with this look on his face… it wasn’t annoyance or anger. It was more like some kind of revulsion for the world he found himself in. Now, I understand that in reality he was probably a partygoer who’d had one Jäger shot too many and was now dealing with a rebellious gut, but there was something about him standing there, in the shadows, in that costume, with that expression of disgust… Anyone with the power to save the world would have the power to destroy it too, should they be so inclined. I hope he had a good Halloween anyway."

 M.B. Vujacic on "Freshmint": "‘Freshmint’ draws more from my own life than most of my stories. I'm a big fan of hookahs, and the hookah lounges where the story takes place are inspired by actual places in my hometown, Belgrade. The two male characters are caricatures of me and a buddy of mine, and freshmint was our favorite flavor at the time I wrote this story. Finally, as far as I'm concerned, the forearm-length centipedes that live in South America and hunt bats are among the scariest creatures on Earth. Even the small, black ones that occasionally find their way into my house give me the creeps. Fun fact: I'm currently writing a full length novel set in the same apocalyptic universe in which ‘Freshmint’ takes place, so I guess you could say ‘Freshmint’ is a prototype of sorts. A prototype I'm rather fond of. Here's to hoping the readers will share the sentiment."

Rohit Sawant on "The Pack": "Usually when you trace the origin of a story, you can follow the thread leading to the collision of ideas that sparked it, but sometimes, like in the case of 
The Pack’, it’s like waking up to find a mound of puzzle pieces on your doorstep. I only had a rough storyline, but even in its half-formed state, the characters and the imagery fascinated me, but most of all I was drawn to exploring how certain situations were likely to throw a harsh light on the fickleness of alliances when the chips are down; however, it still felt incomplete so I set it aside. It wasn’t until I saw this photograph my dad took of a New Jersey neighborhood when he visited the states late last year that things clicked, which was odd since the location doesn’t feature specifically in the story, but in that mysterious way, something about it brought everything together, and I began work on the piece about these two characters who butt heads in a post-apocalyptic setting while carrying out a task. Now that might sound pretty vague but revealing more would only spoil the fun!"

Marvin Brown on "Grandfather's Room": "I set two ground rules before tackling my post-apocalyptic tale: first, there would be no zombies or mutants or aliens. Second, the planet couldn’t be destroyed by nuclear mayhem, climate catastrophe, pestilence, asteroids, extraterrestrial invasion, or electromagnetic pulse -- any of the usual ways we get to the end of the world in these types of stories. Oh, there will be a collapse of civilization and my New Creatures will roam, but anywhere I can sidestep common tropes of the subgenre I did. I like the texture of post-apocalyptic stories: vast man-made structures in ruin, unmanaged nature taking back its planet, the devastating silence. Most unnerving, though, are the echoes and footprints and fading photos of the extinct. So, as your tour guide, I aim to provoke with these time-tested horrors, and point out some new ones as we cross this dystopian terrain."

Irina Slav on "A Year Later": "My first thought when I saw the phrase ‘post-apocalyptic anthology’ in the Franklin/Kerr call was ‘Disease! Zombies! Yay!’ My second thought was ‘Oh, how banal can you get?’ I still wanted my disease-caused Apocalypse, though, I’m kind of pigheaded with my ideas, so I looked for a way around the banality of disease-zombies-survival. I left the disease, dispensed with the zombies as we know them, and decided to make the story personal. What happens to Haley and Julianne in ‘A Year Later’ is pretty run-of-the-mill survival in a post-apocalyptic world where every human touch is death up to one point. For that point, I had to reach into that darkest corner of my mind when the most gruesome horrors lurk. The horror I pulled out this time is kind of disturbing but it had to be in the story. There was no other way, as Haley would probably say."

Christine Stabile on "Dry Leaves": "This story was born from a nightmare. The kind that jolts you awake drenched in sweat and sobbing. Unlike most of my vivid dreams, this one didn’t fade away. It plagued me until it was written and Jill’s story was told. Was it a glimpse into the future? I hope not. You can find me on Facebook -- I’d love to hear from you."

Jordon Greene on "Forbidden": "You know what I hate more than anything? It's not people who drive too slow in the left lane, though they do rank near the top of the list, or liars and thieves even. No, what I hate more than anything is when people use the government to oppress others who don't follow or agree with their religious views. What is more high minded than that? ‘Forbidden’ takes this deep distaste for religious tyranny to the next level in a world that I hope we'll never live in. It takes a current issue that seems to rile up a lot of fuss in our day and throws it in the middle of a horrifying political system only a theocrat could appreciate to make a point. Tyranny is tyranny, no matter what label you put on it. As a person of faith myself, I don't have a problem with religion, I have a problem with its abuse."

Jessica Clem on "Slits": "In the dystopian world of ‘Slits’, the First Battles of the extremist True Cross militia has eliminated law and order in a small community. Those who remain must obey their commandments, including participation in the annual, bloody Holy Arcturus. This gruesome game pits eight randomly selected people against each other, where they must cut and gut their way to victory inside the claustrophobic confines of a mega trailer home. This story follows Charlotte, one of the chosen who is afflicted with PTSD flashbacks. We follow her from room to room as she battles former acquaintances and neighbors, and the crazed ringleader known as The Gorgeous Man. She knows whomever remains will become a member of the militia. But whomever doesn’t... This story was inspired by a terrifying nightmare of mine. The trailer was original to my dream, but the extremist mania of the army was inspired by the ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, ‘The Long Walk’, and the Crusades. I wanted to the horror to be inside and out of the trailer, bleeding into every edge of the community. Is there a world worth fighting for in ‘Slits’? It’s up to YOU, brave reader, to decide!"

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