RSS Feed

Vastarien vol 3 issue 2 Edited by Jon Padgett Matt Cardin & Michael Cisco


Purchase Subscription from Publisher

Buy from Amazon U.S.A or U.K



 About Vastarien vol 3 issue 2:


Vastarien: A Literary Journal is a source of critical study and creative response to the corpus of Thomas Ligotti as well as associated authors and ideas. The journal includes nonfiction, literary horror fiction, poetry, artwork and non-classifiable hybrid pieces.

Double issue! Original cover art and 13 original, full color illustrations by living legend Harry 0. Morris. 25 works of fiction by Michael Griffin, Cody Goodfellow, LC von Hessen, Sarah L. Johnson, John Claude Smith, Casilda Ferrante, Lora Gray, Matthew M. Bartlett, and others! 2 Nonfiction articles by Alex Skopic and John Palisano. 9 poems by Sonya Taaffe, Rae White, Dimitry Blizniuk and others. All new recurring column by a special guest!




Vastarien Column: Tenebrous Ramblings
Romana Lockwood

Year in White
Alex Jennings

Heath Crawler
Sam Hicks

Homeownership and You
Kurt Fawver

Roscoe’s Malefic Delights
LC von Hessen

Rhonda Pressley Veit

your AI girlfriend named “it”
Rae White

I Wake Up and Remember Myself
Michael Griffin

The Psychic Surgeon
Cody Goodfellow

Nina Shepardson

Her Lullaby
Casilda Ferrante

Gunfire and Brimstone
Alicia Hilton

Win Big
Carson Winter

Joshua Plack

A Spectre Haunting Detroit: On Corporate Horror and Historical Materialism
Alex Skopic

Theory of Forms
Sarah L. Johnson

There’s Something Wrong with Henry
Eddie Generous

Lessons in Etymology for the New Human
Korbin Jones

Secret Voice of Fire
Casilda Ferrante

Drinking from the Incantation Bowl
Sonya Taaffe

You Are the Arm
J.A.W. McCarthy

Music for a Peripheral Companion
Timothy G. Huguenin

Mike Thorn

T. M. Morgan

Brood Five
Lora Gray

Tiffany Morris

Grooming my Grandfather
David Stevens

Dear Will
Tim Major

Death Doll
Roberta Gould

Picturing Her Hands
Ivy Grimes

The Hole in the Wall is Oblivion
John Claude Smith

Phases of the Shadow
Jessica Ann York

The Inexhaustible Rhyme of Nature
Dmitry Blizniuk

Music for a Peripheral Companion
Timothy G. Huguenin

Oh the Beautiful Stink
Matthew M. Bartlett

On the Adaptation of “The Frolic” from Prose to Screen
John Palisano

Miguel Fliguer

Advice I Wish I’d Been Given When I Was a 12-Year-Old Girl about to Watch The Exorcist for the First Time
Chelsea Davis

Mount P
Denise Robbins




Reviews of each work will appear as when completed. Possibly once a week two works that worked for me.



Deprimer by Mike Thorn

Just recently finished his debut novel out Feb 23rd Shelter for the Damned and liked and reviewed it so wanted to give shorter work of his a try.

Dr Cribs i am on to you!
I followed from your building on the outskirts of the district.

Vincent lives in Canada with depression, a high pressure job, plenty monies, and thinking of ways of ending it all, with a bullet or something else.
When all else failed, and Vincent had already tried many routes with various therapies, opportunity knocked with a strange charismatic man that operates from obscurity and anonymity with abilities that may sound appealing and a talent in sniffing out Deprimers.

This was an abstract work that almost carried me under its wings empathically until matters turned down an certain avenue, or should I say agreeing to certain terms, now that is something for concern, one that leaves perplexing rumination with a paradoxical tale, good short stories can do this, question certain beings and choices, along with good word usage.



No, I’m not one of those hippy-dippy birdbrains who’s out to hemorrhage your savings for a bit of New Age hocus pocus.”

“Most days, it was a kind of deadly nothingness. A boredom so complete that it crushed out the surrounding world. These days even getting up for work had become a seismic effort, so excruciating you might as well have asked him to bungee-jump out his bedroom window at seven in the morning. The numbing effects of depression were almost, almost enough to keep his real concerns at bay—the toxic venom of self-hatred, anxiety, even dread.”

“into the vast, metallic room, which looked like the inside of a spaceship from some low-budget sci-fi movie.”



I Wake up and Remember Myself

by Michael Griffin


First person telling evoking the emotions and the domain of his, a psychological taxing perpetual journey in a labyrinth of ones mind and core of being.

This domain an obscure one, trying to understand ones whys and how, decipher ones dilemma, with a memorable empathic discourse on self and self-scrutiny.

Ignorance is sometime bliss.

This is my second reading of his works and loved his novella Armageddon House and I have two of his collections The Lure of Devouring Light and The Human Alchemy on my pile with beautiful cover art of which I am going to tackle few of his stories in coming weeks.



“In the center of a wide, black emptiness, I wake, wild with the terror of the vacant, newborn mind. I possess nothing, no name or memory of any prior self. All that exists is this perilous new moment, which tilts as if yearning to pitch me forward into some unknown future. The idea of facing anything at all terrifies me. I’m not ready.”

“When eyes open, a self arises, but how much must that self contain to qualify as real? A human being is more than just the raw ingredients of life, unadulterated by a history of personage. What good is the abstract idea of self, without specifics attached? This is much worse than confusion. It’s the lack of the very thing it pretends to be.”

“Snow is quiet, cold haven, snow is solitary death.”



Oh the Beautiful Stink
by Matthew M. Bartlett

There is..

Trouble with old man in party hat with a trio leading him down streets

Trouble to sleep

Trouble at the supermarket

the malodorous gelatin of unknown provenance

Whistling of a disquieting tune

Trouble with the television

Trouble with silence and ambient noise

With the myriad of troubles, who’s fault is it?
One thing for sure.
Welcome to the Matthew Bartlett Zone!

It seems to be the birthday of a man of older age. He seems to be lead down paths by a trio, mostly suburban streets and blindfolded. If you see or hear of these sightings report to local authorities.

Okay..well that was a little time in bizarre trappings with terrible unsettling things. 

There be peculiarities with mind stirring and word acrobatics maybe.
I like the way he builds the sentence and other places his sharp short shock sentences. My first but not my last read of his works.




“You forget large swaths of your life.”

“The past is a shadow thrown behind me by the sun, the future is the glare that blinds me. There is only the present, and the present teems with trouble.”

“Six week ago, driving down a sun-splashed suburban street to the supermarket, I saw a young couple and a boy approximately six years old leading an old man down the sidewalk, the boy holding the man by the wrist. On the old man’s head sat a colorful, conical pointed birthday hat.”



Roscoe’s Malefic Delights
By LC von Hessen


“The Comestitorium is down the block and around the corner from my apartment, so in my regular neighborhood dealings I end up passing Roscoe’s Delights and Roscoe’s cigar smoke far more frequently than I’d prefer.”

Dear writer I have also abandoned that street and can never pass The Comestitorium and Roscoe’s Delights again.
It is all true what you tell, I couldn’t describe as great as you with vivid evocation and such great descriptiveness Roscoe stands in front of me and his meal, I have to shake these memories from my mind these words here, my last repeating of any dealings or mentions with Roscoe.

“Roscoe himself was a generic sort of man with a plump, squarish, gently mottled face, which looked as though someone had attempted to carve a face into a potato and didn’t finish out of boredom. Frankly, we had no guarantee that he wasn’t a sack or two of potatoes that had gained sentience, donned a human skin and a curly toupee, and opened a local eatery.

But the actual Roscoe before us wears windbreakers and jeans, with hands in his pockets and a smug, faintly distasteful smile, emitting a laugh low in the throat, huhuhuhuhhr, like a choking motor.”

I have food critic heading there I have asked a favor of him, he owes me one, you know Mr Anton Ego that one investigated Gusteau’s restaurant in Paris, he will settle it all.


“My apartment, as it happens, is an inadvertent Petri dish of structural decay. The building itself is over a century old, and its interior surfaces form a battered skin, pocked with wrinkles, scars, and weals over time. Eggshell cracks routinely appear in my ceilings and walls, shadows laying down roots that the cold moisture of late-year months and humidity of summer conspire to widen and wedge apart, lapping tongues of layered paint, eventually dropping off in jagged swathes like the facial features of a tertiary syphilitic.”

Yes well I had the same I was in the next block they all seem to be designed in same manner, get out please!

“I grumble past the omnipresent Comestitorium line which now extends down the block and around the corner, obscuring the gate to my apartment stoop.”

And I won’t miss that line because I too had to dodge the terrible souls lining up.

I also did one more thing I saw an ad he posted he was in need of a nanny and I referred one great nanny, Leanne Grayson, she owes me one too, she has been hired and its all working out to plan. Hope to read sometime in the future that you have moved to better accommodations and city.




“The Comestitorium served only one item: the embarrassingly named “Roscoe’s Delights,” available slathered in various types of sauce. The titular item was far from “delightful” to look at, reminiscent of blood-drained white worms or skinned, flattened rats’ tails or stringy strips of tripe, spongy and resistant like an oddly complex form of pasta that fought the fork and curled up with the tongue. If one chose, as most did, to eat them with sauce, they were served with a cloudy, jellied orb on top that was prodded open with one’s fork to diffuse over the contents, like a boiled egg—perhaps appropriately, since each orb resembled the amniotic sac of a zygote. With predictable pretension, each of the sauces was also linked somehow to one of the four medieval humours via the restaurant’s menu, which improbably described this whole experience as a gastronomic panoply of gustation for connoisseurs of mastication.”




Konrad by R. P. Veit


A tale of a passionate runner, she is separated with teenagers, in distress with case of wear and tear damage that needs some Konrad treatment.
Don’t we just hate those little and big pains that get in the way and deter our running routines.
There is a few feelings Victoria will go through along with her pains.
Doing the turtle movements can only help the joints but not with Konrad watching I rather do it in private.
There is an imaginative mind of Victoria brought alive with the creative crafting of the author.

“I appreciate the invitation, Ed. I really do. But I can’t sit in a car that long. I guess Bunny told you about my neck. I have a herniated disc or something.”

“December is good running weather in Georgia. If she were healthy, she would’ve run ten miles by now. She is a distance runner; the half-marathon is her favorite distance. She’s not strong at mile two, and she’s not strong at mile twenty; but at mile seven or eight she feels invincible.”

“He manipulates her right arm until she loses possession of it. It is his now; it is in the crook of his arm. He presses and presses at her shoulder. She feels his hand on her upper back, although it doesn’t feel like a human hand. His fingers become a single tentacle whose probing tip creeps toward her spine. It finds beneath her skin firm, painful masses that are like the rotting pits of stone fruits. The arm of the octopus will release them. Like a blunt knife, it will bore them out of her.”

“Victoria has spent most of her adult life putting obstacles between herself and such predators. She married gentle, protective Ed, who never pushed her head into his lap; certainly not while driving. She is an event planner; men answer to her. She is not above browbeating busboys. She lives in an alarmed house in an iron-gated subdivision. She’s spent all these years becoming ever more untouchable.”

“She misses a winter run like a departed love. When she runs, her body belongs not to Konrad, but to her. Or rather, she belongs to it. There is a certain amount of pain involved; she embraces it. Her ribs expand, her arms swing, her legs follow.”



The Psychic Surgeon
by Cody Goodfellow


In his first paragraph he mentions “There were no forms to fill out. I paid in cash.”
Then there is descriptions of hands in a certain way “I recall that they looked and felt uncannily small and fine, like the hands of a doll.”
One would think get the hell out of there, all the fingers prying and digging, but then it’s not so gruesome and beneficial in ways.
Not for me he can keep his hands to himself.
An interesting peculiar very short tale..maybe one cannot deter his end but he can at least make few adjustments.




“ATP, like any substance, can be dangerous when abused. When administered properly, it works as intended: it allows our minds to navigate through the innumerable, tangential existences, choosing the path in which we always survive. I am offering the world immortality, utopia. And you degrade all of it.”

Getting ATP pronto.

As I read more further on second thoughts I skip on that thought, erase, erase.

There be experimentations and injections with one at precipice of do and maybe die possible outcomes and variations at play.
Feelings, actions, with death and life in the mind and “obsessive thoughts about the fractal universes that bloom all around us,” awaiting in the story.

There is this sentence that strikes some today news similarities: “The whole world needs to be vaccinated. Once we all share in mortal perfection, I will have perfected our uni-verse. There is still too much resistance and mimicked products that do harm instead of good. Talonz,” I say with disgust, “and Chinese knock offs. It must be everyone using my compound.”

“No one tried harder than I did. Twenty-four hours straight, days on end. No weekends. No life at all except the work, the lab. At first, no one cared, only outrage from the bourgeois and the denizens of religiosity and the raging mob that is the common human. They have their news cycles, their links that require clicks, their narcissistic divinations that they are due splendor; and here I had given them the greatest chemical of all time. Instead, they deemed it their newest boogeyman. But I proved them wrong.”

“Soon, I toiled day and night to make this thought experiment actualized. My personal life was not so much one of ennui as lackluster compared to the piquancy of my work.”



Homeownership and you
by Kurt Fawver


“You’ve lived a lonely life, a life in search of a tangible, all-American dream: the house. Now, you believe, you can focus on balancing the cosmic scales. You can fill the house with love and memories. You can have it all.”
I am sure he can.
And yes “nothing can possibly go wrong here.
But then oh dear, a door to somewhere… and so forth the story unravels.
Home ownership proved to be not what he expected and he needs to “regain psychological mastery over your home.”
Engaging and immersive short haunting tale.

“You find the door to nowhere on a Monday, after a strenuous weekend spent moving boxes and furniture into your new townhouse. The house is a fine place, you think. Three stories high, dark oak floors, recessed lighting, and stainless-steel countertops: it’s all been built to your specifications. You even chose the siding on the building’s face—an eggshell blue suggestive of clear skies and smooth sailing. You don’t care that your house is surrounded by a forest of clones painted up in marginally different colors and hues. You don’t care that the drive from your house’s development to work takes forty minutes. You don’t even care that none of your new neighbors will look you in the eye or return your smiles and casual hellos. You’re just happy that you’ve finally managed to purchase a home. Your own home. A castle fortified against the rest of the world.”

“Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow—always so many plans for tomorrow.
The remainder of the night, you dream about nothing at all.”