Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Talismanic #Horror

Love was the last thing Glenn Springer expected to find after exchanging the rat race of the city for the country life, but that wasn't all, there was mystery and horror too...

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Glenn Springer could hardly believe his good luck. After moving to Maine to escape the Boston rat race, he bought a farm, was successful, and became the envy of his neighbors. Then, he fell in love with the beautiful and bewitching Grizelle Beaumarchais. Was his good fortune all due to a locket he found inside the walls of his old farmhouse? And why was Grizelle so interested in it? Could it have anything to do with her being descended from an Indian shaman? Why were there things about herself that Grizelle wasn't telling him? Was his love for her genuine or was he being subtly manipulated? His luck, it seemed, had its price, and as Glenn began to realize, the bill was coming due.

EXCERPT: Talismanic


Chapter Eight


Hands in his pockets, Glenn left Town Hall and began walking down Main Street. Hoping to avoid meeting anyone else on the street, he rounded the corner at Founders Way and slowed down. He looked at the numbers as he passed various storefronts even though he knew exactly where Tucked Away Antiques was located. The fact was he was as nervous as a schoolboy working up his courage to ask a girl out on a date.
He didn’t understand why that should be. He’d had relationships with a number of women in the past. He knew the routine. So why was his heart pounding to beat the band? Was this love, real love, not simply romantic adventure that he’d experienced in the past? Again, he pictured Grizelle in his mind, and again, unbidden feelings of desire welled up in him, and not just of desire, but of the need to hold her, protect her, care for her. Feelings he never really had before with other women. Was this what love at first sight was like? Otherwise, what he was feeling just didn’t make any sense.
His musings were interrupted by his arrival before a big plate glass window with the words “Tucked Away Antiques” emblazoned upon its upper surface.
He stopped and sort of leaned forward a little to peek around the edge of the window into the store. But the glare of the outdoors threw the interior into darkness and he couldn’t tell if anyone was present.
In the lower corner of the window, “Est. 1998” indicated when Tucked Away Antiques opened for business and behind the glass, a display area showed off some of its wares, including dark stained furniture with carved woodwork filled with acorns and leaves, filigreed jewelry, books, and sundry other items typical of an antique shop.
But still, there was no evidence that anyone was present deeper inside the store.
Half hoping for an excuse to turn back, Glenn moved toward the entrance and was disappointed to find a sign hanging there that declared “Yes! We’re open.”
Steeling himself, he pushed the door inward setting an overhead bell to ringing.
“I’ll be right with you,” came a feminine voice from somewhere inside the cluttered shop.
Uncertain if he recognized the voice as that belonging to Grizelle, Glenn decided to kill some time by walking around the floor space. Not an easy thing to do. All around were large pieces of old furniture stacked with every manner of knick-knack, bric-a-brac, old fashioned lamps and jewelry boxes. Picture frames, some with paintings still in them, hung from the walls and leaned in corners. Glass display cases near the back were crammed with old shoes, battered books and magazines, glass patent medicine and soda pop bottles, quill pens and ink stands, and rare coins.
A doorway led to a second room and, looking inside, Glenn saw even more furniture; this time piled carefully one piece upon another. They appeared to be more battered than those in the front room and an odor of turpentine suggested that somewhere, someone was working to refurbish items for sale.
Moving among the stacks of dressers, lampstands, highboys, and dining room tables and chairs, he moved from colonial and Victorian era household goods into an area containing items of considerably older and less civilized make.
Curious, he approached a dim corner of the room and was surprised to find leather and beaded items that looked to him to be of Indian make…or was it “Native American” these days? Pouches and moccasins and was that a piece of wampum? All of them darkened and rumpled with age, indicating that they were the genuine article, at least so far as his untrained eye could tell. Looking further, he found a collection of arrowheads, doubtlessly collected by generations of eager boys dreaming of Indian Wars and adventure; iron cooking pots, bone knives, fur hats, and leggings. Also, among the artifacts were less identifiable items, including masks made out of bark, numerous pieces of wood, some carved in the likeness of men and others less so, painted and feathered pipes, painted stones, medicine bags, and other trinkets.
If they were genuine, the store had some interesting stuff here.
Impressed, Glenn wondered why such things weren’t stored in the town’s Historical Society museum. Was there a market for such things? And if there were, how much money was involved? Maybe he should reconsider giving the things he’d found at home to the Society and sell them instead.
“Those are not for sale,” said Grizelle, as if having read his mind.
Startled, Glenn spun about, at first missing the owner in the gloomy storeroom.
“You must have read my thoughts,” he said, waiting for his eyes to adjust themselves.
“Oh! Glenn Springer! From Bed, Bath & Beyond.”
“You remembered. I’m flattered.”
“Who can forget Bingham’s local celebrity?”
“Oh, please, don’t remind me!”
They shared a laugh before Glenn decided to compliment Grizelle on her business.
“This is an interesting place you have here,” he said, nodding in the direction of the crowded room. “I wouldn’t have guessed you had so much room from outside.”
“I wish I had more,” replied Grizelle. “I have a habit of buying faster than I can sell.”
“So you don’t specialize, I take it.”
“I gave that up a long time ago. I found that there was too much interesting stuff out there to turn anything down.”
“Do you rely on people coming to you or do you go to auctions and such?”
Grizelle shrugged. “Sometimes. But there’s not much profit in buying merchandise at auctions. Mostly I rely on what people bring in or if I’m offered first dibs on junk stored in someone’s basement or barn.”
Glenn sniffed. “And you refurbish the stuff you get?”
“Not everything. Only items I feel are worth it. Most of the stuff in here I’ll sell as is. C’mon.”
She led him on a zig zag path along the narrow spaces between piled up bureaus, wing chairs, and hope chests, to a back room where the smell of stain and lacquer was heavy in the air. Harsh fluorescent ceiling lights threw the space into sharp relief along with a long work table covered in sheets of newspaper and cluttered with paint cans, brushes, dirty rags and bits and pieces of carved wood.
Empty picture frames hung crooked on the walls and screwdrivers, hammers, chisels, and carving knives rested in half empty racks. At the moment, a two tiered, multi-drawered dresser sat waiting for the glazer’s attention.
“My current project,” Grizelle said, indicating the dresser.
“Do you have any employees? This rehabilitation stuff must be time consuming.”
“It is, but I get by.”
Suddenly, the doorbell tinkled signaling that a customer had entered.
“I’ll be right back.”
Looking around, Glenn could hear the mumbling of voices from the front of the store and presently, the jangle of a cash register drawer.
“Well, I can eat tonight,” Grizelle said, stepping back into the room.
“You work that close to the bone?” asked Glenn.
“Not that close, but sometimes I worry.”
“Ever think of getting out of the antique business?”
“Uh, uh! I opened this store twenty years ago and I mean to stay with it for the long haul.”
“Like what you do, huh?”
“Love it! I’ll admit there’s not much money in it but I find the work satisfying. I always was interested in history, especially local history. Not wars and politics, but domestic history; the history of the household and family and farm life. Working with old furniture and heirlooms makes me feel closer to the people who once used them.”
“I get it,” said Glenn. “But I couldn’t help noticing before that you do keep track of current politics.”
“How so?”
“When you jumped on Cindy Turner in my defense the other day.”
Grizelle laughed. “Oh, that! You don’t have to pay much attention to politics to be sensible.”
“Maybe, but you sure seemed familiar with Cindy’s political leanings.”
“She wears them on her sleeve, like most leftists. You’re not a liberal or anything are you?”
“Me? No!”
Mostly, Glenn didn’t pay much attention to politics, but of necessity, while working in Boston, he’d gone along with the crowd and made the proper noises about evil Republicans. But if it helped his case with Grizelle, he was glad to hint that he leaned conservative.
“Methinks you protest too much!” laughed Grizelle.
Her good humor, thought Glenn, only intensified the attraction he felt for her. Even in the unforgiving light of the workroom, her features appeared smooth and featureless and a smudge of stain on the side of her nose only made her more adorable in his eyes.
She wasn’t tall, but she was well proportioned for her height. She wore a man’s shirt with the sleeves rolled up past her elbows revealing slim arms and a tight pair of jeans confirmed that her legs weren’t bad either.
Overall, Glenn continued to find himself enchanted with Grizelle, so much so that he failed to pick up on her next comments.
“I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“I was asking how you ended up here,” repeated Grizelle, with no indication of impatience. “Just window shopping or what?”
It took a moment for Glenn to reorient his thoughts and remember what he’d come in for.
“Oh! Yeah, right.” He reached inside his shirt and pulled out the locket. “It’s about this.”
“Ooo, let me see that,” said Grizelle, stepping close.
Glenn was intensely aware of the nearness of her body. He could smell the scent of her hair, the soapy freshness of her skin…it was Ivory Soap.
Taking the locket in her hand, she angled it toward the light for a better look.
“Here, let me slip it off,” said Glenn as he was pulled by her tug on the necklace.
He slipped it from around his neck and placed the locket in her hand.
“I showed it to Archie Finister over at the Historical Commission and he got it open. Look, I’ll show you.”
He ran a fingernail along the edge of the locket and it sprung open.
“Careful,” he said, “I don’t want to lose whatever it is that’s inside.”
Grizelle didn’t reply right away but did show obvious care in handling the locket. She kind of shook it a bit in order to jog its contents some before snapping it shut again and examining its outside more closely.
“Archie didn’t know what that stuff was on the inside and couldn’t date the locket. He suggested I come here to ask you about it.”
Grizelle continued her silence, by now having found a magnifying glass for closer inspection.
“I found it inside the wall of my house,” continued Glenn. “It was built by Nathanael Winsor in 1821.”
“I’m familiar with it,” said Grizelle suddenly.
“The house?” For a moment, Glenn wasn’t sure if she’d heard him and was talking about the locket.
“Yeah. I heard what you’ve been doing with it. I admire you for that.”
“Thanks,” said Glenn, still not convinced she was really paying any attention to what he was saying.
“I’m pretty sure the locket is early colonial,” she said at last. “Maybe even came from England. It’s the insides that puzzle me. Unless I miss my guess, it looks to me like the fine bones of a bird of some kind, mixed with some dried leaves and maybe some seeds. Not the usual stuff you’d find in a war veterans’ locket.”
“Leaves and bones?” questioned Glenn, moving closer to look over her shoulder at the locket that was still cupped in her hand.
“Mm. More like stuff you’d find in an Indian’s medicine bag.”
“Medicine bag? Afraid I’m not up on my native anthropology.”
“Some native peoples used to use them. Small leather pouches they’d wear on their persons holding bits of ephemera they thought were important to them personally. It was common belief that they connected a person to their personal totem which would protect them against disease or in battle.”
She handed him the locket back.
“It’s strange then that articles usually found in one of these medicine bags is held in a locket that no Indian would likely own.”
“It is.”
“Then…Nathanael Winsor went native maybe? How else to explain his carrying around these bits of leaves and bones in his locket?”
“Or it belonged to someone else? Just because you found it in his house, doesn’t mean it was Winsor’s. Maybe it belonged to someone else in his family; someone who hid it in the wall to keep anyone from finding out about it.”
“I suppose that makes sense too.”
“So, what do you want to do with it?”
Glenn rubbed the back of his neck. “Don’t know. Keep it for now I guess.”
“Want to sell it?”
“You interested?”
Grizelle shrugged. “It is an antique. I deal in that stuff. I’m not sure how much it’s worth but I’ll make you a decent offer.”
“Hm. I did sort of promise Archie that if I decided not to keep it, I’d donate it to the Historical Society museum.”
“Sort of?”
“I mean I could change my mind. I don’t know. Guess I’ll keep it for now.” He slipped the necklace over his head and dropped the locket inside his shirt.
“It’s your call. But I’m interested in anything that smacks of Native American lore. You saw my little collection over there. So if you decide you need a few fast bucks, I hope you’ll keep me in mind.”
“I’ve been keeping you in mind for some time now,” said Glenn boldly. Where did that come from? But he was glad he’d said it.
“Oh, really?” replied Grizelle, placing her fists on her hips. A stray lock of dark hair fell across her face. Glenn found the resulting look enchanting.
“Uh, you made a good impression on me at the mall,” he ventured.
“So I was wondering if you’d be free for dinner one of these days.”
Grizelle smiled and considered him a moment before replying.
“Not any time soon. I’m pretty busy as you can tell.” She waved a hand vaguely indicating the work room around them.
Glenn was crestfallen.
“I’ll tell you what, the Grange is going to hold its annual harvest dance in a couple of months, why don’t we meet up then?”
“Well, I was kind of hoping…”
“I’m not in a rush to get involved with anyone at the moment,” explained Grizelle, relaxing. “And by then, who knows? You might have forgotten all about me.”
“Not hardly,” blurted Glenn, instantly embarrassed.
Grizelle laughed then, turning him around and gently shoving him in the direction of the door.
“You better get going. I hate to see a grown man blush!”

Author Bio:

Pierre V. Comtois has been the editor and publisher of Fungi, the Magazine of Fantasy and Weird Fiction since 1984 and has had a number of books released by numerous publishers including Goat Mother and Others by Chaosium Fiction in 2015, A Well Ordered Universe by Desert Breeze Publishers in 2016, and Marvel Comics in the 1980s: An Issue by Issue Field Guide to a Pop Culture Phenomenon by Twomorrows Pubs in 2015. Earlier volumes include Marvel Comics in the 1960s and 1970s. In addition, Comtois has contributed fiction to many other small press magazines over the years including Haunts, The Horror Show, Thrilling Tales, and e magazines Planetary Stories and Liberty Island Magazine. Comtois’ fiction has also appeared in various magazines for Cryptic Publications and Rainfall Books as well as such collections as Lin Carter’s Anton Zarnak: Supernatural Sleuth, Eldritch Blue, and various Chaosium Books anthologies. The author has also written a number of books including novels such as Strange Company and Sometimes a Warm Rain Falls; non-fiction such as Our Lives, Our Fortunes, Our Sacred Honor; and short story collections such as The Way the Future Was and The Portable Pierre V. Comtois. Comtois has also found the time to contribute non-fiction articles to such magazines as World War II, America’s Civil War, Wild West, and Military History, many of which were collected in Real Heroes, Real Battles, a book published by Sons of Liberty Press. Also from Sons of Liberty is River Muse: Stories of Lowell and the Merrimack Valley, to which Comtois has contributed a personal recollection entitled “I Was a Teenaged Bibliophile.”


Wendigo, Cthulhu Mythos, horror, shamanistic, Native American


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