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Not a Speck of Light by Laird Barron


 


 

About Not a Speck of Light

 

It’s about to get very dark.

Bram Stoker Award-winning author Laird Barron returns to the dark and dreadful with his fifth horror collection, which weaves sixteen weird tales into a mosaic of the bloody and the macabre.

Here’s just a glimmer of what to expect:

Somewhere in Alaska, a middle-aged woman confronts a terrifying creature that haunts disaster sites.

Jessica Mace, professional final girl, is dispatched to an Adirondacks compound to steal a formula from a murderous tech billionaire.

When a couple and their faithful dog move into the country, they are ensnared in the malevolent designs of a former scream queen.

A successful wildlife photographer traces his nervous breakdown to sinister childhood games.

Bring a flashlight and a book of matches.

Where we’re going, there’s not a speck of light.


 

Table of Contents

I
Blood Red Samaritans

In a Cavern, in a Canyon
Girls Without Their Faces On
Mobility
The Glorification of Custer Poe

II
Wandering Stars

Joren Falls
The Blood in My Mouth
Nemesis
Soul of Me

IlI
Alan Smithee Is Dead  

Fear Sun
Swift to Chase
Don’t Make Me Assume My Ultimate Form
American Remake of a Japanese Ghost Story

IV
Lake Terror 

Strident Caller
Not a Speck of Light
Tiptoe
(You Won’t Be) Saved by the Ghost of Your Old Dog

 

 


 

Review 

 

(More reviews of short stories will be posted soon)

Laird with his lyrical third eye potent tellings, a transmutation of words archaic and contemporary fused, juxtapositioning the reader in realms colliding surreal and real, a lyrical darkness and terrible beauty laid down transfiguring the scene to a conjuring of Laird Barron’s calling.

I hear your echo Laird that cosmic horror one to chill your blood that, “voice into the dark, waiting for an echo.” 

Resistance had been present and one swaying away from getting to reading Laird Barron’s work, but the echoes getting through and hear his calling and slowly taken oneself upon the road of dissecting his ballads.

 


 

American Remake of a Japanese Ghost Story

 

One Jessica m ‘PA for Phantom Lovers,’….Invited to a housewarming at ‘a big American Gothic structure updated to resemble something Argento might’ve used as a set in the heyday of vinyl and exploitation cinema.”’

This place gave her certain vibes upon arrival:
“The creepy part was when we pulled into the yard and the place perfectly resembled my recent bad dreams right down to the peaked roof, nearby shed, and fields and woods. The dreams themselves were vague and disjointed as dreams are wont to be. I recalled wandering fields by moonlight, then an endless maze of dim hallways. Occasionally, someone or something on my plucked at my hair . . .” 

We don’t happen to have magic balls, oracles, portals to the void, handed down by one Mary with warnings and may never encounter the chance.
We do have the chance to be transported into this tale with one who does, the author taking the reader down an uncanny valley with the vivid scenes unfolding with things occurring.
There be people undertaking a seance, amateurs inexperienced playing with the unseen and a Ouji board and there be a real conduit amidst them in form of Jessica M with a portal and senses of another kind with the power and curse to unravel mysteries.
There are some finely crafted sentences and word choices, a poetically potency present with strains of the comedic amidst the lyrical darkness, ones that are a joy to read throughout various works of the author.
Be aware forces of darkness awaiting Jessica M with her divining ball portal to the void amidst the thick and the uncanny of it.

 

Excerpts

“There’s a curse in folklore known as a geas. That’s when a witch, or a fairy, or the supernatural entity of your choice, compels a hapless mortal to undertake duties on the creature’s behalf. Woe betides the mortal who shirks the quest; increasingly worse calamities befall them until they relent or die. Somebody, somewhere, laid one on me.”

“Odds are Hamlet told Horatio the truth about the denizens of his undreamt philosophy. Whatever, whichever, however: the world shows you its dark side, you take notice. That f***ing needle starts skipping, you’re a true believer.”

“As the late, great Al Davis would say, just win, baby.”

“Jessica, you’re a bright woman. You got an education. Why schlep all over the USA looking for horrors to battle? Why live your life as bait in a trap?
If I don’t, the horrors tend to come looking for me.”

Prickling neck hairs and the queasiness in the pit of my gut acted as faulty Geiger counters—the physical manifestation of hyperactive intuition.

The stars were still twitching; the moon had made some progress. Their supreme indifference to the insignificant horrors of human drama was pleasant, emotionally stabilizing.

“Activate a witchboard, you’re making a call to a random payphone across the veil. Could be a bad neighborhood. Anybody can pick up. Scary part is, whoever’s on the other end has deluxe caller ID.” I tapped my head. “Mr. Ghost of a Psycho Killer’s got your name, number, and home address.” True as far as it went, although I might’ve overstated the danger a wee bit.

“We, the cynical audience, hunker in seats of a darkened theater and mock the heroine who fumbles around, shining a feeble light into corners while meekly calling, Who’s there? Where’s that cynical movie-going wisdom for those who reenact variations of that scene in scores of homes every evening? Yeah, we scoff at heroines and then stumble into our own fates at the first point of crisis. It’s because we’ve trained ourselves to ignore the little warning voice that says, Don’t investigate the noise that woke you. Don’t cross the empty parking lot after hours. Don’t be a fool.”

 


 

Tiptoe

The past gone but never dead, memories good or bad, one Randall Xerxes Vance opens up his past for the reader with what partaken one last day on Lake Terror in ’68.
Lake Terror which was really Lake Terron and as he tells:
“The Vance clan’s holy trinity: Christmas; IBM Family Day; and the annual summer getaway at a cabin on Lake Terron.
We made our final pilgrimage the year before Armstrong left bootprints on the Moon.
Lake Terron—or Lake Terror, as we affectionally called it—gleamed at the edge of bona fide wilderness. Why Lake Terror? Some joker had altered the N on the road sign into an R with spray-paint and it just stuck. Nights were pitch black five paces beyond the porch. The dark was full of insect noises and the coughs of deer lurching around in the brush.”

Frailties and complexities within the raw present, Randall’s buried past reanimating finding its ground and running its course with the shifting of the time within new fears and traumas.
One was fond of photography of wild animals, but the reader may come to ponder that the lens may have been turned now with reader more to inward hidden animal.
There was a game taught by father Tiptoe, that this reader has had it hand at setting traps and surprises for others in his youth and one can associate with the fear and surprise that can be sprung upon a victim. This game had rules but no not like that of dear Dexter, if you was thinking so, one whose father taught many a thing.
Randal says, “..a game called Tiptoe Dad taught me. A variation of ambush tag wherein you crept behind your victim and tapped him or her on the shoulder or goosed them, or whatever…The victim must be awake and unimpaired.”
Despite this game and his learnings of survival with it and the moulding of a man he says this made him with time: “..I’m a tad jumpy. You could say my fight or flight reflex is highly tuned.”
He battles with many things, the older him, and mentions:
“nightmares ensued; and creepy-crawly memories surfaced.”
“the beginning of a rough, emotional ride: insomnia; nightmares when I could sleep; and panic attacks. It felt like a crack had opened in my psyche. Generalized anxiety gradually worked its claws under my armor and skinned me to raw nerves. I committed to a leave of absence, pledging to conduct an inventory of possible antecedents.”
There is the case of dear Aunt Vicki she is quite a soul, a kin with a talent, and not the fake kind, as she goes to expound on, she can perform ‘hypnotic regression’ and ‘communed with friendly spirits.’
These souls with things buried all on Lake Terron, Lake Terror, Vicki enlightening the scene where eyes don’t see.
The author builds the character Randall imbuing the reader with a sense of care and he reels you on with great crafting with the what and how of the story with dread and the uncanny and a want to understand all that is contained within.

 

Excerpts

“There’s always something if you dig,”

“Heard you coming from the other end of the house, son. Are you thinking like a man or a spider? Like a fox or a mantis? Keep trying.”

“Electricity affords us the illusion of self-sufficiency.” “Gunpowder and penicillin imbue us with a sense of invincibility. Perpetual light has banished our natural dread of the dark. We’re apes carrying brands of fire.”

“Humans are genetically encoded to fear things that look almost like us, but aren’t us.”

“Prey animals are easy to stalk. They’re prey. They exist to be hunted and eaten. Predators are tougher. I can teach you. I’ve been working with your brother for years. Getting him ready for the jungle.”

“That mystical evening, performing for a rapt audience against a wilderness backdrop, she was on her game. Seated lotus on a blanket near the fire, she affected trancelike concentration. Speaking in a monotone, she specified the exact change in Mr. Schrader’s pocket, the contents of Mrs. Mercer’s clutch, and the fact that one of the Mercer kids had stolen his sister’s diary. This proved to be the warmup routine.”

“The worst part? This apparent mental breakdown coincided with my mother’s health tribulations. A double whammy. After her stroke, Mom’s physical health gradually went downhill. She’d sold the house and moved into a comfy suite at the retirement village where Grandma resided years before.”

“I was a child of the 1960s. Three network stations or fresh air; take your pick. No pocket computers for entertainment in dark-age suburbia. We read our comic books ragged and played catch with Dad in the backyard. He created shadow puppets on the wall to amuse us before bed. Elephants, giraffes, and foxes. The classics. He also made some animals I didn’t recognize. His hands twisted to form these mysterious entities, which he called Mimis.”

 


 

 

Girls Without Their Faces On 

 

Barry F having an Autumn party in Alaska.
Delia is going with J her boyfriend.
If Planet X is aligning with the sun we are all doomed according to mysterious man J, it seems no more parties.
Delia is having a instinctual feeling in this tale that she doesn’t quite know who J is, and what he does as a job when he is away.

Her sense of imminent danger may have had risen at this observation:

“By some trick of the dark, his eyes flared dull-bright crimson. His lambent gaze pulsed for several heartbeats, then faded, and he became a silhouette again.”

Prepare your self for “hardcore Bermuda Triangle-Mary Celeste s**t,” of Laird Barron’s great crafting with cosmic horror.

The tale moves to an encounter of cataclysmic effect and ruination, the denizens of Alaska entering a new chapter of existence, a whole strange new world you find yourself immersed in.
There is a unique presence of a canine Atticus and too in Strident Caller in Nox Pareidolia with Artemis.

 

Excerpts

“Planet X is aligning with the sun. Its passage messes with gravitational forces, brain chemistry, libidos, et cetera. Like the full moon affects crazies, except dialed to a hundred. Archeologists got cave drawings that show this has been a thing since Neanderthals were stabbing mammoths with sharpened sticks.”

“Hillside East was heavily wooded. Murky at high noon and impenetrable come the witching hour. Neighborhoods snaked around ravines and subarctic meadows and copses of deep forest. Cul-de-sacs might host a house or a bear den. But that was Anchorage. A quarter of a million souls sprinkled across seventeen-hundred square miles of slightly suburbanized wilderness. Ice water to the left, mountains to the right, Aurora Borealis weeping radioactive tears. October nights tended to be crisp. Termination dust gleamed upon the Chugach peaks, on its way down like a shroud, creeping ever lower through the trees.”

 


 

Strident Caller 

 

The Strident caller and skull candle transcending the scene and then on….like a scene out of Mandy (2018 Film).

Gander at these words strung together that follow, characters evoked within this tale with craftsmanship of the author ones to interlope your fleeting precious minutes of immersive reading.

Craven is..”Unlike many of his friends and fellow travelers, he hadn’t gotten hooked on liquor or addicted to dope or caught an embarrassing, career-ending disease. Jack of a dozen trades and possessed of not half-bad looks, his mutably convivial personality proved sufficient to excel at the job of survival.”

Andy, “Andy was a late career Boris Karloff-looking sonofab***h who stalked the grounds while wearing the scowl of an ax-murderer on vacation.”

There is Deborah the temptress, “Seventy-fifth birthday coming next month, she possessed the florid sumptuousness of an aged yet ageless Italian scream queen.”

The possible star character, Artemis, one whom “Craven rescued the brindle pit bull.”

 

 


About Laird Barron

 

Laird Barron, an expat Alaskan, is the author of several books, including The Imago Sequence and Other Stories;Swift to Chase; and Blood Standard. Currently, Barron lives in the Rondout Valley of New York State and is at work on tales about the evil that men do.

 

Photo courtesy of Jessica M

 

Laird Barron’s Patreon

Below is the authors new for 2024 Patreon Introduction:

“The Sun’s rim dips; the stars rush out;

At one stride comes the dark” –Samuel Taylor Coleridge

My name is Laird Barron and for the past quarter century I’ve written in the fields of crime, horror, and the weird. My first collection, The Imago Sequence, arrived in 2007; my latest work, Not a Speck of Light (Stories), is slated for September, 2024. Between those points, I’ve published several other collections, novels, and a host of short fiction and essays.

The goal of this Patreon project is threefold—first, to consolidate my social media presence; second, to serve as a repository for my extant interviews, reviews, and commentary; finally, to act as a conduit for new material; be that essays, videos, or serialized fiction and nonfiction.

In coming years, this site will stand as a growing treasury of my interwoven universes and their myriad denizens, from Jessica Mace and Isaiah Coleridge to Rex and Old Leech Hisownself. I invite you to join me on an odyssey that spans the bronze dust of Ultra Antiquity into the nightmare core of the Great Dark.

Click the links for details of each reward tier: