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Free Read – Monkey Man

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“And they all lived happily ever after.”

Toby’s mother closed the story book and gazed down at her petrified son with a look filled with such compassion only a mother could give it. She knew he was scared. She could feel it. Since the moment he came home from school the fear had been slowly building up inside him, and as the afternoon marched relentlessly on towards night he became a dishevelled shell of a boy.

Toby wouldn’t tell her what the problem was. Throughout the evening she had gently poked and prodded at his defences trying to make him open up, but he remained tight-lipped. He was stubborn, just like his dad.

She leaned in closer to her son and planted a delicate kiss on his forehead. “Okay?” she asked. The boy nodded emphatically. He was tying to hide his fear, probably for her sake. But she knew he was quaking in his boots, she could almost smell the fear coming off him in cloying waves. It was in his voice, his eyes, the atmosphere. The fear was like a dense black cloud that threatened to engulf everything.

As a last resort, she decided on the direct approach. “Toby, tell me what’s wrong, love.” The boy remained silent, but the expression on his face spoke a thousand words.

“Monsters?” she asked, tentatively. “Is it the dark? Bogeymen? Did someone at school say something? What is it?” She fought to keep her voice from rising. Not in anger, but pure frustration. “Do you wanna sleep with the light on? Would that help any? For God’s sake, just tell me what you’re so scared of!”

No answer.

She was getting ready to give up when Toby spoke, quietly and deliberately, as if worried about who or what may be listening. “I’m not scared of the Bogeyman. I’m not a kid, I know its not real. I’m scared of the Monkey Man, because he’s real.”

Toby’s mother was momentarily stunned into silence. What a bizarre thing for a six-year old to say! In all her years, she had never even heard of anything called the Monkey Man but decided that it must be some variation on the Bogeyman theme. Adopting her softest, most understanding tone, she met his eyes and tried to look sincere. “Toby, listen,” she began. “Nothing and nobody is going to hurt you, okay? I promise. Not the Bogeyman, the Monkey Man, or any other kind of man. Do you trust me? Do you trust mummy?”

Toby nodded again, as if he had known all along such creatures didn’t exist, but didn’t look entirely convinced. There was more than a shred of doubt lingering in his mind, and that shred of doubt was causing all the problems. But what more could she do? With a sigh she stood and went to the door, then turned to look back at her son. She didn’t want to leave him alone like this but it was getting late, and surely this was the best way? She remembered reading an article in the Mail on Sunday. He would confront his fears, win the battle, and be all the better for it.

“Remember, Toby,” she said. “Monster’s aren’t real. I promise. They only exist on television and in your mind. So don’t you be afraid, okay?”

“Okay, mum,” Toby’s voice was small and weak.

“Okay, then. I’ll leave the landing light on until you drop off. If you want me, just call out.”

“Okay, mum.”

“Goodnight then, love.”

“G’night, mum.”

Alone in the semi-darkness, Toby lay still, listening. The old terraced house creaked and groaned around him and the muffled voices of his parents drifted up the stairs, but he was oblivious to them. His ears were cocked, his heart thudded in his chest, and every nerve was wound tighter than a spring. The first sign of the Monkey Man, and he was going to run for it.

There was such a thing as a Monkey Man, too. Adam Yates had told him at school. And Adam Yates had a cousin who had actually SEEN it with his own eyes. He said when it was dark, the Monkey Man climbed up the drainpipe of little boy’s houses, quietly opened their bedroom window, crept in and carried the boy off as he slept. Adam said after that, he did unspeakable things to them and they were never seen again. Toby wasn’t exactly sure what unspeakable meant, but it didn’t sound good. He secretly suspected that know-it-all Adam Yates didn’t know what the Monkey Man did to little boys either, and tried to disguise the fact by using words nobody else could understand. It was probably a made-up word, anyway. Suddenly there was a noise outside the window. A faint scrape.

He was coming! The Monkey Man!

Instead of running for it as planned, Toby buried his head beneath the bedsheets. In his mind’s eyes he saw the exterior of the house. A shapeless black mass, barely visible amidst the crawling shadows, clung to the drainpipe just below the upstairs windowsill. For the first time Toby noticed that his parents had kindly fitted his bedroom with rather a large window, easily big enough for the sly Monkey Man to squeeze through.

Mum had left the landing light on! How stupid! She was advertising him like a fresh lamb chop in a butcher’s window. Even worse then that, the beast outside was provided with enough light to enable it to open the window. Did she want him to get taken away and have unspeakable things done on him or what? But why would she want that? He had been good. Well, in the main. He had only been eight for two weeks and already he hated it. There was so much about the world he didn’t know. It was so BIG. And weird! Any thing could happen.

He wanted to get out of bed, run across the landing and turn off the light. Maybe then the Monkey Man would move along down the street in search of another, easier victim. But his body seemed frozen. Besides, this way least he would see the thing coming. Without the light there would be only darkness, and he would be defenceless.

Maybe, if he lay still, the Monkey Man wouldn’t see him. He would climb up the drainpipe, take a sneaky peak through the window and see only an unkempt, unmade bed. The seconds ticked by, agonizingly slowly. Surely, if the Monkey Man planned to come in he would have by now. It had been a long time since he heard that single scrape and he hadn’t heard any other suspicious sounds since. All was quiet now.

After a seemingly impossible amount of time passed, Toby found himself growing weary. His breathing slowed and his eyelids began to droop. Maybe mum was right, after all. Maybe the Monkey Man really isn’t real. She had promised, and mum never broke a promise. She always told him that was naughty. What was more, she would never let anything happen to him. He was safe here.

Adam Yates might have been lying. That was naughty, too. He had been caught lying in school before. He thought telling fibs made him sound clever, or made other people like him more or something. He was a sad case.

Now he was awfully tired. He could barely keep his eyes open. He was surprised to learn that he no longer cared about the Monkey Man. All he cared about was sleep. Glorious, peaceful sleep. He allowed his lids to close over his grainy eyeballs and almost immediately succumbed to the great dark abyss.

Later, the house was completely still. Nothing stirred, and the only sounds to be heard were the soft snores emanating from the master bedroom. Toby was in a different world now, a world of adventure and magnificent dreamscapes.

Nobody heard the strange, stealthy noises coming from just outside; the scrape of boot against brick, or the creak of the drainpipe as it struggled to bear a weight it was never designed for. Nobody heard the soft click as Toby’s bedroom window was tentatively opened.

Monkey Man was inspired by a story I read in a tabloid newspaper. One of those little ‘Strange But True’ fillers. The story was about an area of northern England being terrorized by a man often seen scaling the front’s of houses. It was probably either a peeping Tom or a burglar on the prowl. But maybe it was something worse, which is what my imagination did with the story. In a nod to his dexterity the media dubbed him the Monkey Man and put a cheeky, light-hearted spin on it. I decided to take it and add a dark twist, resisting the urge to place anyone in a gorilla costume.

This was the first thing I ever had published, by a man called Arthur Smith who ran the iconic Welsh fiction magazine Cambrensis. In fact, it was the first piece of fiction I ever submitted, which set me in a falsely confident state of mind until the rejections started piling up. I think the early success had more to do with Arthur feeling sorry for me than any real skill on my part. I remember submitting the whole manuscript in BLOCK CAPITALS on the suggestion of my dad. Dad, you’ve been right about most things in my life, but you were wrong about that. Readers, please don’t submit manuscripts in block capitals. Anyway, Arthur re-typed the whole thing, edited it, and put it out in an edition of Cambrensis in 1997. I was 23. 

Cambrensis was a labour of love for Arthur. I can’t imagine he ever made any money out of his little enterprise. Especially when you take into account that the payment for publication was a lifetime subscription. As it turned out, the ‘lifetime’ in question was poor old Arthur’s, as he died a few years later and Cambrensis died with him. This is a shout out to you, Arthur, wherever you may be. Thanks for believing.

Monkey Man is available in X, my first collection of short stories.

UK LINK

US LINK

© This is a work of fiction, copyright of the author, C.M. Saunders

DISCLAIMER: Picture nicked from Google Images


Vicar on the Underground

I was commuting home from work one evening on the Northern Line somewhere between Goodge Street and East Finchley, when a vicar got on the tube. Seeing a vicar on the Northern Line wasn’t that unusual in itself, God knows I’ve seen a lot more weird shit than that, but something about the way the man carried himself was unusual. Even in the midst of rush hour chaos, he was the image of calmness and serenity.

Just as he got on the train, a couple of tourists got off and two seats opened up. Seats on the underground at that time of the day are as rare as rocking horse shit, and the vicar swooped right in without even breaking stride. But even though the carriage was rammed and people were falling over each other as they fought for space, the seat next to the vicar remained empty, almost as if people sensed not to get too close. I watched him from afar for a while, as you do on, without ever approaching him. But later, I couldn’t stop thinking about the Vicar on the Underground and a few days later this story leaked out.

The whole process was comparatively easy. I wrote the first draft of the story in a few days (at 2,700 words it’s at the shorter end of the spectrum), revised and edited it over the next couple of weeks, then started submitting it to markets. It was picked up by Oscillate Wildly Press almost immediately. Something else that’s as rare as rocking horse shit.

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From the promotional material:

The monsters we have come to know and love take a backseat as we delve into the darkest, most hideous depths of a monster that has taken centre stage as of late–HUMANS.

The collected tales herein will take you on a wild ride into the monstrous aspects of humankind, revealing some of the scariest atrocities humans are capable of doing, the ‘demons’ lurking in their heads, the ugliness of the pure human soul. You’ll meet artists, handymen, grieving parents, desperate alcoholics, and the delightful Sally Burns.

This debut anthology features the work of a variety of talented writers, including a few of the award-winning and darkly imaginative authors writing today. When you are ready, settle down, lock the window, and remember…the only monsters to fear are ourselves.

– Claire Fitzpatrick, Editor, December, 2016.

You can check out the anthology HERE


X Sample

X Sample, my latest release through Deviant Dolls Publications, is available now at the special price of 0.99p/0.99c.

X Sample contains a trio of deliciously dark tales ripe for sinking your teeth into and as the title suggests, is designed to give new readers a little taste of my work, as well as giving my existing readers something ‘to be going on with’ until my next book drops in April.

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Table of Contents:

The Devil & Jim Rosenthal: A new parent gets much more than he bargained for.
Date Night: A man’s wife visits the bathroom in a fancy restaurant, and doesn’t come back out.
The Delectable Hearts: A jaded music journalist goes in search of The Next Big Thing. Unfortunately for him, he just might have found it.

Bonus Content:

Afterword

Extract from No Man’s Land: Horror in the Trenches

X Sample is available now at the special price of 0.99p/0.99c

US Link

UK Link


The Halloween Sale!

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Being your typical horror nut, I absolutely love Halloween. I love it so much, I’m going to give you a special gift. Not only that, but I’m giving it to you early. Five times, baby. From now until 1st November, all my indie titles are 0.99. I’m also open to offers for my body, my soul, and an Iron Maiden Number of the Beast limited edition 7″ red vinyl, but let’s start with the books.

The sale means you can pick up a novel, two novellas, and two short story collections for less than a fiver, including the Top Ten Amazon bestseller Sker House and my new release No Man’s Land: Horror in the Trenches. Details and links below. So in the immortal words of David Coverdale, If you want it, come an’ get it.

No Man’s Land: Horror in the Trenches

The Somme Offensive, 1916. Harry Doyle is a young, overawed British infantryman struggling to come to terms with the insanity of war. His main objective is staying alive, and getting back home to his family in one piece. But his hopes begin to diminish when he realises the full extent of the misery and destruction around him. And the German war machine isn’t the only thing he has to worry about. Something else is preying on his friends and comrades in the trenches, picking them off one by one. Something no amount of military training can prepare him for.

Proceeds from this book will be donated to the Help for Heroes foundation.

This book contains descriptions of graphic violence and is not suitable for minors.

UK LINK

US LINK

Sker House

Dale and Lucy are two students with a fascination in the supernatural. One weekend, they travel to Sker House, South Wales, a private residence with a macabre history which has recently been converted into a seaside inn. They plan to write an article for their university magazine about a supposed haunting, but when they arrive, they meet a landlord who seems to have a lot to hide. Soon, it becomes apparent that all is not well at Sker House. An air of oppression hangs over it, while misery, tragedy and ill-fortune are commonplace. Gradually, it becomes clear that the true depth of the mystery goes far beyond a mere historical haunting. This is a place where bad things happen, and evil lurks.

Little by little Dale and Lucy fall under Sker’s dark spell, and as they begin to unravel the mysteries of the past, they realize that nothing stays buried forever. Welcome to Sker House, a place where past and present collide.

UK LINK

US LINK

Out of Time

Joe Dawson is a struggling 41-year old writer battling a serious case of writer’s block. When he travels to Wales in a last-ditch attempt to reignite his career, he finds himself staying at a mysterious seaside hotel, where nothing is quite what it seems. As the secrets of his past finally catch up with him, Joe is thrust into a life or death situation where his every action could have terrible consequences.

UK LINK

US LINK

X: A Collection of Horror

This is what happens when you ‘wake up’ inside a dream, when the urban myth you heard turns out to be so much more, and when that hottie you pick up in a bar springs a terrible surprise. But what do you do when your wife gives birth to something not entirely human? When your past discretions come back to haunt you? Or when a serial killer moves in next door?

The first collection of horror and dark fiction from C.M. Saunders, including three previously unpublished stories, plus an introduction and extensive notes. Also features exclusive artwork by Greg Chapman.

Table of Contents: Introduction: That’s Entertainment, A Thin Disguise, A Hell of my Own Creation, Monkey Man, The Awful Truth, Mr. C, Fame / Infamy: A Deconstruction, Another False Dawn, The Night Everything Changed, The Devil & Jim Rosenthal, Club Culture, Afterword

UK LINK

US LINK

X2: Another Collection of Horror

The sequel to 2014’s successful X: A Collection of Horror features ten more slices of dark fiction from the blood-soaked pages of Fantastic Horror, Unspoken Water, Dark Valentine and several anthologies. Also includes two previously unpublished stories, extensive notes, and original artwork by Greg Chapman.

Meet the teacher who sees dead pupils, the ambulance crew who pick up a casualty who won’t die, and the childhood friends who spend the night in a haunted pub. Along the way you can meet a man who refuses to accept his wife’s death and goes to extreme lengths to keep the flame of love alive, the boy who just likes to watch you sleep, and maybe even pay a visit to an antique shop with a deadly secret. If you dare.

Table of Contents: Little Dead Girl, Curiosities, Intruder, The Night Visitor, Hero of the Day, Embracing Solitude, Treat Night, Handsome Jack, Tiny Little Vampires (Flash Version), Roadkill, Afterword

UK LINK

US LINK

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As the Crow Flies included in QuickFic Anthology 2

I’m thrilled to announce that my very weird flash fiction story, As the Crow Flies, has finally found a home having been included in QuicFic Anthology 2: Shorter Short Speculative Fiction out now on DigitalFictionPub. This time out, I’m honoured to be sharing antho space with Lisa Finch, Liam Hogan, Greg Chamberlain, Tanya Bryan, Suzie Lockhart, Amy Sisson, Pedro Iniguez, D.J. Cockburn, and many others.

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“He remembered the stories his grandfather told him when he was a kid. The stories about how the devil himself, the original fallen angel, stalked these mountainous peaks under cover of darkness, preying on weary travellers. Granddad never elaborated much on what he meant by ‘preying.’ He never had to.”

– From As the Crow Flies

I wrote As the Crow Flies in 2011 or 2012. At about 750 words, it’s one of my shortest short stories. I submitted it to a few magazines and websites, nobody wanted it, so I dumped it in a folder on my desktop and moved on with my life. Fast forward a couple of years and I’m re-organising (okay, organising) my writing folders and I come across this again. I re-read it and remembered I had based it on a creepy old Welsh folk tale I read about in a history book. So yep, this story might be true. Equally, it might NOT be, but who the fuck knows, right?


9Tales at the World’s End #3

My apocalyptic love story, ‘Til Death do us Part, is included in 9Tales at the World’s End #3, out today.

There’s more to how the world dies than just a simple bang, or a horde of hungry, hungry zombies. This anthology features 9 visions of the Earth’s final days from 9 authors.

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The issue also includes:

ALL THE WORLD IS YELLOW by DJ Tyrer
THE LAST TO GO by Jeff C. Stevenson
THE FLIGHT by David J. Wing
RAPTURE by Luke Walker
BOTTOMS UP by Jack Campbell Jr.
THE ROAMERS by Grant Matthew Frazier
TRANSPOSITION by Craig Bullock
CODE OF THE DEAD by Sara Green

UK LINK:

US LINK:


Jessica – Liquid Imagination #29

My short story Jessica is now available in the new edition of Liquid Imagination, the place where reality and fantasy blur.

Jessica, a tale of young love, was fun to write. It was one of those stories that comes virtually full-formed in a dream. Wake up, bang, new story! The only difference is, I dreamed the ending first, then had to fit some kind of story around it. The hardest part was deciding what to call the girl, who is the real star of the show. I wanted something cute-sounding, maybe a little prim, but relatable. I hope the ending kicks you in the nuts.

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When I write a new story, it usually sits on my hard drive for a few months, even years. Periodically I dust it off, re-write it, format it differently and just generally play around with it whilst submitting it to different markets. Not Jessica. This was written, edited, subbed and accepted, to the first market I sent it to, all within two weeks. If only everything was that easy.

Anyway, please give it a read, all it will cost you is a little time,  and let me know what you think! Diolch!

Liquid Imagination #29 – Jessica


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