Flash Fiction: A Ship in Darkness

“A Ship in Darkness” by Robin Wyatt Dunn

I record the ship’s message, known only to me. It has no words; it is a ship made of wood in dark ocean without light. Broken, sinking, dying.

Like me. I understand its message.

It is a tomb.

It’s so quiet.

So exquisite and beautiful.

What else could be my life, now, but this?

I am its natural message. The last resident of an experiment that did not achieve its desired result, indeed, it did not achieve any result.

All are now fled. Only me, and the last floating wreckage.

A dead love affair. A ruined nation. A presage of dawn, seen, but only in the mind, light within the mind’s eye, brighter than any made by sun . . .

What were we experimenting with? What weren’t we experimenting with? Time. Authority. Emotion. Apocalypse. Human response to apocalypse. Mind-reading. Mental control. Degrees of sanity, and its sharing. Degrees of insanity. Correlations between the DSM 4 and our own sea-bound habits, methods of calculating our sexual frustrations, our food-related habits as the storerooms were methodically exhausted of food, our increasingly stubborn refusal to contact the mainland . . .

My own mind control ray . . .

Well a mind control ray is not so unique. We all developed one out here. It’s nothing so dramatic. All chess-players know of it. All teenage girls. It’s just that it can be toyed with, and there’s no point to doing so, really . . . like growing a 40 foot cock: what are you going to do with it?

Elephantiasis of the mental gonads.

Still, I say it was a success. Because of what I see now: beauty.

Why is destruction so beautiful? Chaos is a kind of order, yes. Violence a kind of love. All romance is at least in part a story of war, if only a war within.

And so the destruction of our ship, my livelihood, my relationship, my career and now my body is at the deepest level a love affair, of one mammal, and one ocean, and one decrepit boat, a boat glowing with meaning . . .

The shades of black, moonless, rise over me like demons, like executioners.

Ocean water seasalt, the potion fills my mouth and nose.

I spit it out, grinning.

My name is Orlando. But the name means nothing. It is my body that has meaning. Cold and afraid, delirious. Some final sanctuary of land, of land-flesh. Land flesh which is only sea-flesh, temporarily contained.

The last fire has sputtered out. I am alone in the rich ash, on the last floating deck.

There isn’t even a radio. In the distance I can see a helicopter, coming this way . . .

I must dive so they do not see me. But in a moment.

You see, I am healed. How is destruction healing? How is murder healing? It shouldn’t be but it is so. Nature forgives us so much . . . forgives us anything . . . everything . . .

The sea is my religion.

I am to be eaten by sharks.


Robin Wyatt Dunn was born in Wyoming during the Carter Administration. He lives in Los Angeles. His vital statistics, as well as a list of his books and publications, can be found at http://www.robindunn.com.

His most recent novel, Fighting Down Into the Kingdom of Dreams, is available in print and e-book formats.

Film Review: Abide With the Pit

Jug Face directed by Chad Crawford Kinkle

Review by Michael Bryant

Ever wonder if there’s really a God in Heaven?  Tired of your prayers going unanswered?  Can’t afford health insurance? Well brother, pull up a chair, pour yerself a glass a’shine, and let me tell you the Good News of the Pit! 

Jug Face is the feature debut of writer and director Chad Crawford Kinkle, and delivers a steady stream of terror and despair. The film is centered around an isolated and impoverished backwoods community that worships a being dwelling within a potter’s clay pit. In exchange for the occasional human sacrifice, chosen through the subconscious making of a person’s image on a “jug face” by the potter Dawai (Sean Bridgers), the Pit provides its followers with a cure for all disease and injury by washing in its blood-soaked cesspool.

There’s trouble in paradise when Ada, played by the stunning Lauren Ashley Carter, must face a difficult choice between the well-being of the community and the safety of her unborn child, who she fears may be the next sacrifice.

While this film cranks up the weird factor, it remains grounded in its characters, who are not caricatures of bloodthirsty hillbillies with a taste for anal rape, but simply people working to make the best of what meager opportunities are afforded to them. The combination of great performances, solid character development, and a strong showing in directing from Kinkle create a sense of empathy for the characters that is sadly rare in many modern horror films.    

Jug Face is a breath of originality in a genre overrun by tired cliches and gore-saturated slaughter fests. Kinkle is a director from whom to expect great things from in future, and I will certainly be looking out for his next film. 

 5/5 Lovecraftian Pit Monsters

Book Review: Turn the Radio Off

Gateways to Abomination by Matthew M. Bartlett

$3.99 e-book; $7.99 paperback from Amazon

Leeds, Massachusetts isn’t a place you want to visit.

You see, things have gone bad. Real bad. A mysterious radio station—WXXT—transmits polka music, distorted church broadcasts, snippets of history, and accounts of unspeakable terror. Just listening to the station—even once or twice, to something as harmless as atonal distortion or a folksy, repetitive sing-along—can have terrible effects on mind, body, and environment.


Gateways to Abomination takes a lot of risks. While there are subtle narrative threads laced throughout the many stories, transmissions, transcripts, newspaper articles, and poetry-like accounts, the book is neither conventional nor linear. Each piece can be read on its own, but works best in full context. That said, stomaching more than a couple of stories at a time can be difficult. Not because they’re not well-written—because they are—but because of their nightmare-like prose and disturbing content. It’s a lot to absorb.

I’ve been consuming horror movies and literature for most of my life, and this book managed to punch through the walls of my jaded expectations. There is some truly horrific content here: gore, violence against children, body horror, and much more. What’s most disturbing is that these elements are used to facilitate a despairing sense of unavoidable damnation and suffering. This isn’t a horror work where you scream at the characters to make better decisions; if you’re in Leeds, and you’ve heard WXXT, you’re doomed, no matter what you do.

Each glimpse of the unspeakable—men covered in soul-sucking leeches, people turned into goats and vice versa, mysterious men in black hats, secret ceremonies in the woods—builds to something greater. An apocalypse of sorts is underway in New England, and we’ve got a worm’s eye view of the terror to come.

Don’t approach the book thinking of it as a short story collection. Consider it more a panoramic view of terror, of the approaching darkness, of evil in a small community that gradually infects and corrupts everything it touches.

Bartlett’s voice is strong, his scenes unnerving, his characters damnable and relatable. Gateways to Abomination is a happy discovery in the side alleys of independent horror. Readers interested in something that will push their buttons, something that will inspire a contagious sort of fear beyond the reading experience, would do well to pick up a copy of this book and support a truly unique and disturbing take on Satanic horror and weird fiction.

5/5 Dark Rituals

Spooklights e-book Now Available

Our debut release, Spooklights, is out!

For $1.99 you can read nine tales of literary terror from up-and-coming horror authors from around the country!

Hitching Post by Doctor Gaines

Spooklights by Colin Scharf

Dark Matter by Toni Nicolino

Dog’s Blood Blues by Jonathan Raab

Out of the Ashes by Amberle L. Husbands

Vodun by Michael Bryant

Distribution by Julie Godard

The Mask of Black Satin by Logan Noble

Between the Walls of Static by Jonathan Raab

Help support independent literature – and horror and weird fiction!

Spooklights from Amazon

From Kobo

From Inktera

From Scribd

Film Review: Good ( and Dead) Burger

Ghost Burger directed by Lee Hardcastle

Available at Vimeo ($.99 rental; $1.99 purchase)

Lee Hardcastle says he makes “claymations… not for children.” Indeed. His claymation films have gained a cult following on YouTube, where a search of his name will reveal a variety of handcrafted, still-shot, detail-heavy videos that range from spoofs of violent movies (Evil Dead II – with cats!), never-to-be film trailers (Ghostbusters 3 as directed by Quentin Tarantino), and original shorts.

If you’re not familiar with his work, Hardcastle brings a disarming and purposefully childish claymation aesthetic to action and horror presentations. The result is equal parts hilarious and grotesque. His creations kill, dismember, eat, and attempt to microwave one another with the madcap energy of a Monty Python sketch written by Clive Barker and directed by Stuart Gordon. His videos are instantly mesmerizing: so unlike anything you’ve seen since childhood Christmases watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and wondering what the Abominable Snowman would do if those little elves caught him on a really bad day.

The best part? His claymation is not just a gimmick. Watching the horror play out goes beyond the novelty of the form; it’s frenetic, funny, and creative. Hardcastle employs lighting, sets, pacing, music, sound effects, and creative camera work that is the equal (proportionally) to the films he seeks to emulate and pay tribute. His shorts seem familiar somehow—even the original works. That’s because, like all great directors, he pulls techniques and call backs from those who came before him. He’s a talented visionary, and an obvious horror fan and student of the greats. Claymation as a concept may pull you in, but you’ll stay for the substance.

Ghost Burger comes on the heels of Hardcastle’s unfulfilled crowd-funded effort Spook Train, which was to be a full-length, semi-episodic exploration of a haunted carnival ride gone wrong. The trailer itself is a work of demented art, and I can only hope he one day gets the funding to complete his vision. Ghost Burger, meanwhile, is a hearty replacement. Available for free (in episodes) on YouTube, or for less than two bucks to download and keep, you can watch 22 minutes of genre filmmaking at its best.

Set after “T is for Toilet” in the ABCs of Death anthology film, John, a young boy disfigured by his encounter with a possessed toilet, discovers that he can fight back against the ghosts that haunt him. Not only that, but they make tasty hamburgers. It just so happens that his uncle runs a struggling burger stand, and, when John and his cousin Ritchie hide the ghost’s ground-up remains at his stand, the ghost burger is born. No surprise—it’s a big hit, and all the townspeople want a taste. His uncle directs him to go get more—and doesn’t care where the meat comes from.

Thus ensues an action-adventure-horror romp that’s equal parts Ghostbusters, Monster Squad, and Evil Dead. John and Ritchie become more and more desperate to track down and kill ghosts for their “meat,” the townsfolk gobble up their efforts… and a mysterious old man warns them of impending doom.

To get into much more would spoil the surprise—and the chaos—to follow. At 22 minutes it’s rather short, but well worth the $1.99 you can pay to own the film. Think of it less as a price of admission, and more of an investment in the talents of a growing and promising filmmaker. Hardcastle’s style and form call back to the glory days of 80’s horror and genre film while doing something new in an old medium.

Here’s hoping that Spook Train gets to leave the station someday.

5/5 Piles of Premium Ghost Meat

Aspiring Critics, Take Note!

We’re looking for reviews of horror culture – films, video games, books, short stories, and everything in between. The subject matter can be new or old; we love the classics and enjoy discovering new terrors!

Length: 500 – 1000 words

Submit a .doc, .odt, or .rtf file to editor@muzzlelandpress.com, with the subject line “Review Submission.”

Include in your email a preferred byline, and a short bio that we will use at the end of the review.