Terrible Thrills by C. Dennis Moore by C. Dennis Moore - Read Online

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Summary

Horror author C. Dennis Moore returns with his first short story collection, the one that prompted CEMETERY DANCE magazine to call him “an author worth keeping an eye on.” When the original publisher went out of business, the book went out of print, but now it’s back in both print and ebook formats to once again invite readers on 25 terrifying journeys.

In TERRIBLE THRILLS, Moore packs a punch with some of his shortest stories (3500 words or less), proving brevity really is the key to effective communication. The horrors inside include a late night Halloween attraction that traps half a dozen people in an underground catacomb. Lost in the dark with no way out, one guest treads a dark path into madness and paranoia in a story that combines the atmosphere of Edgar Allan Poe with the scares of Stephen King.

In “The Son of Man”, three friends discover a living, growing creature is forming in the clouds outside one of their houses. And while the whispered words echoing through their heads usually inspire hope in the faithful, this time the friends aren’t so sure it doesn’t spell their doom.

“Plaything” and “Parliament of Jim” take wildly different looks at the question of identity and free will, while “The Stand-In” poses the question “How much does where we come from determine where we’re going?” as the narrator tries to track down his birth father, an abusive psychopath out for revenge.

In “Working for the Fat Man”, an immortal Santa Claus uses the names on his Naughty list to feed his powers, but what happens if he slips up and nabs one of the Nice kids instead?

“In the Town of Broken Dreams” watches the town of Yellow Brook, KS as they chase down and execute a mysterious stranger, then live with the consequences of their actions as everyone in town slowly succumbs to the bad luck that follows.

TERRIBLE THRILLS is a collection of horror fiction from the man author Kealan Patrick Burke called “one of the suspense genres best kept secrets.”

C. Dennis Moore is the author of the bestselling THE THIRD FLOOR, as well as other novels in the Angel Hill cycle, THE MAN IN THE WINDOW, THE GHOSTS OF MERTLAND, THE FLIP, and RETURN TO ANGEL HILL (written with David Bain).


PRAISE FOR TERRIBLE THRILLS:

"C. Dennis Moore is a writer well worth watching, if for no other reason than to say you were reading him long before he hit the big time, as he is certainly destined to." 
-- Kealan Patrick Burke, Stoker Award-winning author of The Turtle Boy, The Hides, and Vessels 

“C. Dennis Moore has the unusual ability to connect with readers. I have to wonder why, with his ability to shock with everyday fascination and superb craft, he isn't famous yet across our dark, dark world. But he will be.” 
--Charlee Jacob, Stoker Award-winning author of Dread in the Beast, Wormwood Nights, and Haunter 

"Author C. Dennis Moore definitely knows his way around a short story. His mastery of the form is especially evident in the two dozen examples comprising his debut collection, Terrible Thrills ... The flash fiction works like a sucker punch to the eye, but the longer stories -- given Moore's economy with words -- allow him to drag us through quite a range of terrors." 
--Craig Clarke, Craig’s Book Club 

“The consistent improvement in his work over the years, as well as his ability to seamlessly shift from the mundane to the surreal, indicate an author worth keeping an eye on.” 

--Garrett Peck, Cemetery Dance Magazine

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ISBN: 9781516353590
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Terrible Thrills - C. Dennis Moore

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DREAMS

Horror author C. Dennis Moore returns with his first short story collection, the one that prompted CEMETERY DANCE magazine to call him an author worth keeping an eye on. When the original publisher went out of business, the book went out of print, but now it’s back in both print and ebook formats to once again invite readers on 25 terrifying journeys.

In TERRIBLE THRILLS, Moore packs a punch with some of his shortest stories (3500 words or less), proving brevity really is the key to effective communication. The horrors inside include a late night Halloween attraction that traps half a dozen people in an underground catacomb. Lost in the dark with no way out, one guest treads a dark path into madness and paranoia in a story that combines the atmosphere of Edgar Allan Poe with the scares of Stephen King.

In The Son of Man, three friends discover a living, growing creature is forming in the clouds outside one of their houses. And while the whispered words echoing through their heads usually inspire hope in the faithful, this time the friends aren’t so sure it doesn’t spell their doom.

Plaything and Parliament of Jim take wildly different looks at the question of identity and free will, while The Stand-In poses the question How much does where we come from determine where we’re going? as the narrator tries to track down his birth father, an abusive psychopath out for revenge.

In Working for the Fat Man, an immortal Santa Claus uses the names on his Naughty list to feed his powers, but what happens if he slips up and nabs one of the Nice kids instead?

In the Town of Broken Dreams watches the town of Yellow Brook, KS as they chase down and execute a mysterious stranger, then live with the consequences of their actions as everyone in town slowly succumbs to the bad luck that follows.

TERRIBLE THRILLS is a collection of horror fiction from the man author Kealan Patrick Burke called one of the suspense genres best kept secrets.

C. Dennis Moore is the author of the bestselling THE THIRD FLOOR, as well as other novels in the Angel Hill cycle, THE MAN IN THE WINDOW, THE GHOSTS OF MERTLAND, THE FLIP, and RETURN TO ANGEL HILL (written with David Bain).

––––––––

PRAISE FOR TERRIBLE THRILLS:

C. Dennis Moore is a writer well worth watching, if for no other reason than to say you were reading him long before he hit the big time, as he is certainly destined to.

—Kealan Patrick Burke, Stoker Award-winning author of The Turtle Boy, The Hides, and Vessels

C. Dennis Moore has the unusual ability to connect with readers. I have to wonder why, with his ability to shock with everyday fascination and superb craft, he isn't famous yet across our dark, dark world. But he will be.

—Charlee Jacob, Stoker Award-winning author of Dread in the Beast, Wormwood Nights, and Haunter

Author C. Dennis Moore definitely knows his way around a short story. His mastery of the form is especially evident in the two dozen examples comprising his debut collection, Terrible Thrills ... The flash fiction works like a sucker punch to the eye, but the longer stories—given Moore's economy with words—allow him to drag us through quite a range of terrors.

—Craig Clarke, Craig’s Book Club

Moore builds the suspense with an excellent eye for detail as if it’s actually happening. I wondered if stories like Inside were monsters born of nightmares he’s had. A strange, fertile mind indeed.

—ePinions

The consistent improvement in his work over the years, as well as his ability to seamlessly shift from the mundane to the surreal, indicate an author worth keeping an eye on.

—Garrett Peck, Cemetery Dance Magazine

––––––––

TERRIBLE

THRILLS

C. DENNIS MOORE

DEDICATION

This book is for Jacob, Caleb and Charli, my own Terrible Thrills

Author’s Note

With the exception of Preparations, which was written somewhere between Bob’s Leg and Winter’s Reign, the stories in this collection are presented in the order in which they were written, spanning the years between 1991-2005.  For this collection, I chose only the shortest stories, those 3500 words or less.

While Preparations and Astrid Like a Candle have the same characters, the stories are completely unrelated.  The Strange Thing that Happened at the SpinCycle  Laundry, The Salvation of Victor, and The Flesh-Method & Myriad however, are connected and are part of a longer work called Revelations.

C. Dennis Moore: Who In The Hell Do You Think You Are?

(an introduction by Steve Vernon)

C. Dennis Moore.  It's not even his real name.  He's reinvented it.  I could tell you what his real name really is, but then he'd have to kill me, so I won't.  It's a secret.

Another secret is how I met this guy.  I really can' t remember.  He just sort of arrived in my life one day.  It was kind of like waking up one morning with the taste of sawdust and regurgitated barley water on your breath and a tattoo of your great aunt Mildred's left butt cheek on your bicep.

I expect I met him on one of those message boards I habitually frequent.  You know the places.  Disreputable dives of cyber-tawdriness, inhabited by a variety of shady anonymous characters known only by nicknames such as Circus Cranium, SaTTeRNo 1, and the nefarious CDM.

The acquaintanceship stuck, in much the same way the tattoo would have.  We became e-buddies.  He invited me into a couple of nifty little literary ventures, notably his Book Of Monsters and Diavolo's sadly defunct Project M: zine.  He reviewed a couple of my efforts and I reviewed a couple of his and the friendship spread like crabgrass.

Can't you feel the love?

And all of this time I've never met the man or seen a single verifiable photograph.  For all I know he might be a mutant Inuit lovegod, or a crossdressing heifer fetishist, or a singularly nondescript undiscovered serial killer.

Which brings us back to that whole identity question.  Who in the hell does this guy think he is?

A lot of the stories in this collection seem to be dealing with that sort of problem.  Questions of identity.  In fact some of these tales are steeped so thickly in identity angst, that they'd give a light-tripping Philip K. Dick pause for serious thought.

Take a look at Plaything, Parliament of Jim, Astrid Like A Candle, Mistress or The Stand-In and then pause to take a long look at a mirror to make certain that it's really still you in there, staring back.

Or what about the Mobius strip of Inside.  You won't know if you're coming or going.  And you'll want to take a serious sedative before subjecting yourself to the stereophonic sensurround nastiness of the tale that gave its name to this collection.  Or read The Son Of Man and then try to look at a cloudy sky without seeing the harbinger of the apocalypse.

Lastly, I have to recommend the haunting little yarn, In The Town Of Broken Dreams.  Sounds like a darned country song, doesn't it?  Let me tell you, it's twice as scary as anything Garth Brooks ever gargled out.

So who in the hell is C. Dennis Moore?  Well, for one thing, he's a good buddy.  He's stood by me many a time, boosted my spirits when I felt like crap, and talked me down out of numerous literary hanging trees; and he's a damned good writer to boot.

Thanks Dennis, (I won't spill the beans that your real name is Lester Poindexter Murgatroyd Bumtussle), for giving me the opportunity to air my thoughts.  I've got to tell you, it's been a terrible thrill.

Yours in horror,

Steve Vernon

PREPARATIONS

––––––––

Mr. Seagle, a timid man, entered the office, took his hat in his hands, introduced himself, and was asked to take a seat.

I need to make preparations, he said. My wife's died recently, and I...

Yes, Mr. Perry said from across his desk. We can arrange everything, don't worry.

Mr. Seagle's face showed relief. Now I want everything perfect, no cost spared. It's the least I can do. She was a wonderful wife.

Yes, Mr. Perry smiled. Perfection, of course. We'll make sure, Mr. Seagle, that everything is perfect. Let us take care of the details. Now, may I ask the cause of death?

Lung cancer.

And where is she currently? Mr. Perry had taken out a clipboard and was writing on a form as he spoke.

At home. It was just a few hours ago. I was told I should get this underway as soon as possible.

Yes, Mr. Perry said, making a note on the form. And her name?

Astrid.

Mr. Perry wrote, and commented, A very beautiful name.

Yes, Mr. Seagle said, twisting his hat, it's Norse.

How many guests will you be expecting? Mr. Perry's eyes were glued to his form. He'd done this countless times and could fill out the whole sheet without looking, but he was thorough.

I don't know, exactly. She had many friends.

Can you estimate? It's very important.

At a guess, he thought a second, I'd say, maybe...a dozen?

And can you give me your wife's height and weight?

Mr. Seagle's grey eyes roamed the wall behind Mr. Perry's head as his mind worked. He didn't want to guess too small, but, out of respect, he didn't want to guess too big. Finally he said, She's about five six. I think close to a hundred and twenty pounds, give or take a few.

Kind of small, Mr. Perry said, still filling out his sheet. And when were you hoping to have this?

As soon as possible, Mr. Seagle said. I don't want to wait too long. Decay, you know.

Yes, Mr. Perry agreed, it's always better sooner than later.

He passed the form to Mr. Seagle who signed and dated it. While the widower passed it back, Mr. Perry buzzed his receptionist and told her to have Mr. Mignola accompany Mr. Seagle back to his home. And have him bring the rib spreader, please.

What's the rib spreader for? Mr. Seagle asked, worry shadowing his features.

We'll have to remove the lungs, Mr. Seagle, Mr. Perry said. We can serve the rest of her, but no one's going to want to eat cancer-ridden lungs.

Oh, yes, Mr. Seagle said. I understand.

We'll have this dinner ready by 8:00, is that okay? Mr. Perry asked, standing and coming around to walk Mr. Seagle to the door. Relax, and let us handle everything. You won't be disappointed.

Thank you very much, Mr. Seagle said, shaking the other man's hand. I appreciate everything.

IN THE VEINS

––––––––

And he was gone.  Our guide had done his job this Halloween night; he'd led the lot of us down into the Catacombs beneath Angel Hill, through the black corridors and tunnels, winding this way and that, back and forth with no obvious rhyme or reason to his twists and turns, Rebecca holding tight to my arm, until we reached a stretch of tunnel, black as pitch.

Now, halfway down this corridor, he slips away, unnoticed and unheard until the band of us emerge at the other end into a hallway that's lit by what seems to be a two-watt bulb.

We knew he'd slip away sometime during the trip—that's what we paid for—but we hadn't known when it would happen, and coming out the other end of that black hole to find ourselves guideless gives us all a quick shock. Then we get our nerves under control and begin the second half of our journey: to find our way out.

I imagine this part to be like the knights in the legend, searching for the Holy Grail, except our grail is rectangular, with a door that opens to fresh air.

The first, and most obvious solution, is to backtrack.  Maybe our guide pressed himself against the opposite wall and let us slip past him, then sneaked out the way we came in.  If so, and if we're fast enough, maybe we can catch up to him and try to quietly follow him out.

Halfway back through the tunnel we realize that won't happen; sliding back along the wall we had just traveled down, we discover a locked door.  None of us had noticed it coming down the first time because, before the tunnel, our guide had moved to the right of the hall, told us all to hold on to avoid falling in the dark, and led the way.  By way of his example, we all touched the right side of the tunnel, the pores in the concrete tickling our fingertips.  We also find the tunnel has a curve to it, which had kept us from using the light at the other end of the tunnel to see him disappear.  He's probably outside now, preparing the next group of thrill-seekers, breathing the crisp autumn air instead of this stale, recycled stuff.

In a darkness as absolute as the one surrounding us tonight, the world has no boundaries.  No concrete edges, no space or distance.  Tonight, in this darkness, I realize light has sound.  No amount of silence is ever truly silent.  But in the middle of this void, the silence can be heard for unknown distances; in the breathing of people you can't see; in the ringing you realize is always in your ear but is usually drowned out by the sound of sight; in the chorus of sounds your stomach makes while the burrito you had for lunch digests.

And the darkness has mass you can feel in the unaccountable sense that there's something just beyond your perimeter sneaking up, its fingers outstretched, almost touching you with one razor-like claw before drawing back and sparing you.

Lost in these thoughts and revelations, I flinch when I hear a voice.

We'd have a better chance of getting out, someone in the group suggests, if we did it, not as one large group, but as a couple of smaller groups.

But how many groups? someone else asks.

How many of us are there?

Everyone touch the person in front of you.  Whoever's in front, count 'one,' then back.

There were ten of us.

Okay, ten, says the first person.  Let's say, five groups of two.  That'll keep anyone from being alone down here.

My group consists of myself and my girlfriend, the reason I'm even here in the first place: Rebecca.

With the countless number of tunnels, we doubt any two groups will run into each other.

How about, suggests a third