Wednesday 30 July 2014

Dark Review - Equilibrium Overturned

Equilibrium Overturned Review

By Casey Douglass

(I was given a free copy to review)

Equilibrium Overturned from Grey Matter Press is billed as a collection of tales that are defined as ‘horror-laced science fiction and dark fantasy’, some verging on the more realistic end of the spectrum, others more supernatural in their designs. Reflecting on this as I write these words and scanning down the list of stories, I find myself nodding in agreement with this assessment. It also occurs to me that nearly all of them would make terrific episodes for The Outer Limits or X-Files, two of my favourite shows.

Each story shows humanities struggle against the odds when the natural order of things is turned upside down. As a consequence, there are few happy endings here. Fans of unhappy endings or at best pyrrhic ones will feel right at home with Equilibrium Overturned.

A brief summary of the stories:

The Final Testimony of Molly Ryder by Jeff Hemenway, is a great start to the anthology and deals with crime, punishment and the ability of the mind to meld with another’s. 

Amnion by John Everson, illustrates the dangers of questing after youth when the rest of the world might not be ready for such a thing.

Martial Law by JG Faherty, depicts a strange parade that threatens to topple the biggest organisations of power in the modern world.

Through the Ghostlands by Rose Blackthorn, is a haunting tale of desolation and lives stopped in mid-flow.

The Collected Syliva, Volumes 1 to 1388 by Geoffrey W. Cole, tells the tale of a futuristic couple that are on the search for their new home.

Perfect Soldiers by S.G. Larner, describes the desperate plight of humanity as an evil force threatens to invade the world, the only resistance being found in horrible acts of our own.

Wombie by Martin Slag, is a naturalistic tale that merges nature with other designs that result in nothing but horror for one group of people.

No-Man’s Land by Roger Jackson, a tale of the horrors of war made worse by the unwholesome practices of elements in the trenches.

The Alamo Incident: From The Chronicles of Timaeus Shields by Sean Eads, the tale of a man sent to investigate the force that has been killing soldiers left right and center at the Alamo. The truth is far worse than history led us to believe.

The Butcher of Gad Street by Stephen T. Vessels, shows the forces of good and evil in direct conflict as the barometer of human mood and deed swings dangerously into the red.

Queen of Thermodynamic Equilibrium by Josh R. Vogt, depicts deep space and a future where death has almost been eradicated. This doesn’t please everyone however...

Compartmental by Jay Caselberg, what begins as a train journey and a reflection on the way the human mind files away experience dissolves into a deep tale that reveals what we might truly be looking for.

This is not a Horror Story by Tim Waggoner, a strange trip to the DMV turns into a fight for survival.

Sunrise by Tony Knighton, shows the health of an ailing child failing as the world around him begins to decay and slip from humanities grasp.

All very good stories, but as with anything, a handful struck me harder than others. I think my favourite was Queen of Thermodynamic Equilibrium, as it was set in a pure space environment with all manner of technology and other doodads around it. It also achieved some great friction as science and religion clashed (as is usually the way).
The Final Testimony of Molly Ryder is my second favourite. I have always been interested in other realities, whether virtual, parallel or whatever. The story also kept me guessing until the end which is another thumbs up from me.
Finally I would choose The Alamo Incident: From The Chronicles of Timaeus Shields as another personal favourite. I am not big on American history and don’t much care for it in the scheme of things. I couldn’t help finding the mixture of the mundane gritty setting with the strangeness of what is happening intoxicating however.

I would say that I didn’t dislike any of the stories but some I felt a little bit indifferent to. Just personal preference at the end of the day. 

I give Equilibrium Overturned 4/5. A satisfying and dark read, high in strangeness and grim situations but not enough to tickle my horror gland fully. Visit the Grey Matter Press site here for more information.

Saturday 26 July 2014

Dark Review - Habitat

My review of space survival game Habitat is now up on Geek Syndicate here. A pretty polished physics based building game that just needs to be a bit further into development before being something genuinely special.

Friday 25 July 2014

Dark Fiction - The Sword of Infinite Possibilities

The Sword of Infinite Possibilities

By Casey Douglass

as part of #fridayflash

Digby and Nurn, his faithful dotard companion, traipsed the winding mountain path, both taking quick glances behind them every few paces.
‘Do you think they’ve given up?’ Nurn asked the rocky wall to the side.
Nurn turned his face the other way. ‘I said have they given up Digs?’
Digby grimaced. He hated that name. ‘I haven’t seen any sign of them for the last two miles.’
‘Tha’s good!’
‘Yes it is.’
‘We almost there?’
‘Yes we are.’
‘Will be more up there with it?’
‘More what?’
Digby sniffed. ‘Shouldn’t think so.’
‘You said that ’bout the goblins.’
‘I know.’
‘Good thing you had them dirty magazines. Good bit a forward plannin’.’
‘I try my best,’ Digby replied and looked off to his left at the precipice beside him. It had taken him ages to find a tavern that sold those magazines. He sighed into the wind. Still, he pondered, it was better to lose them to the perverted goblins than wake up hung upside down with your genitals exposed. He had heard tales of travellers coming to a sticky end if they happened to cross paths with goblins. No, losing the magazines was a small price to pay.
‘...wonder how they did it,’ Nurn continued.
‘Did what?’
‘’scaped from that randy witch.’
‘Buster an’ Winkle!’
‘What have they got to do with anything?’
‘Was just thinking how our ‘scape might compare with theirs. Winkle still limps you know?’
‘I’ve seen,’ Digby nodded sagely as he pondered. They had crossed paths with Brenda the witch, or as others called her, Bendy Brenda. You just couldn’t seem to pass anywhere near the Forest of Gloom without her jumping out at you, all three hundred pounds of naked flesh and sagging breasts.
‘s’ard to get over something like that,’ Nurn said with a sigh.
Digby scrunched up his forehead. ‘Did Winkle ever find anyone to remove the wand?’
‘Nah. Everyone’s too afraid ta touch it.’
‘How does he, you know, toilet?’
‘Thank you Nurn.’
‘For what?’
‘Twatting her over the head when she tried that shit with us.’
‘Any time my pal.’ Nurn's mouth peeled open in a massive grin at Digby.
Digby smiled and slapped him on the shoulder. ‘Looks like this is it!’
They had reached the peak, although it could more accurately be called a crater. A large hollowed basin spread before them, a lone dais standing in the very centre, the last rays of the setting sun twinkling from a large sword.
‘Tha’s it!’ Nurn shouted excitedly as he skipped and jumped into a loping run, his pots and pans clattering on his back.
‘Must be,’ Digby said to himself as he ambled along behind.
‘’sa beauty!’ Nurn's voice floated to Digby.
‘I’m sure it is.’
‘Looks heavy!’
‘They always are.’
Digby arrived next to Nurn and deposited his backpack on the hard ground. Wasting no time, he grabbed hold of the hilt and yanked, lifting the mighty blade from its stone sheath. ‘Strange, there was no crackle of power.’
‘These old magic swords usually spark or glow or something. This one’s dead.’
‘Oh no!’
Digby swung it around. It whistled and hummed through the air in just the way a normal blade might. ‘Yep, it’s not magic, and look, the tip is missing.’
‘So where’s it?’
‘What’s that down there?’ Digby pointed to long thin box that was haphazardly nestling in a crack in the ground. He watched Nurn retrieve it and rip it open.
‘Oooh,’ swooned Nurn as he held up a variety of strange metal implements. ‘What they Digs?’
Digby swung the sword so that it pointed at Nurn. ‘Push one on there.’
Nurn picked up one piece of metal that was saturated with holes and carefully clicked it into place. ‘How did ya know?’
‘Saw the writing on that booklet.’
Nurn looked down and lifted it slowly. ‘Wha’s it say?’
‘You really should learn to read one day Nurn, maybe you’d stop falling down wishing wells and dangerous holes if you could read the signs. It says “The Sword of Infinite Possibilities, sharp and flexible for all of your cooking needs.”’
‘That thing you just put on, I think that grates cheese.’
‘And thissun?’ Nurn held up a wire contraption.
‘God knows. Anyway collect it all up, we may as well take it anyway.’
‘What we going ta do with it?’
‘Well we will use it for now, then we will sell it to some cook or other.’
Nurn corralled all of the pieces together and jammed them into his pack. ‘I don’t get it. Were we fibbed ta?’
Digby sheathed the sword in the large black scabbard that had been empty on his back for the whole adventure. The special one with magic shielding and anti-theft devices that he had provisioned for just the purpose of retrieving a grade two magical sword. Bollocks. ‘I think Nurn, we have been the victims of false advertising.’
Nurn nodded sadly and sniffed. ‘Oh.’
‘Come on,’ said Digby, let's get out of here.
‘Where to?’
‘Home, but we are stopping at Mick's Tavern on the way.’
‘Need to replenish my goblin bait.’


Thursday 24 July 2014

Dark Distractions Anthology Volume One is Out Now!

I am happy to announce that nearly every one of my short story and flash fiction posts on this blog from the last couple of years (spanning March 2012 to July 2014) is now bound up in this handy Kindle eBook. Dark Distractions Anthology Volume One is available from Amazon now and is the most simple way to kick back and read my dark fiction in comfort.

"Unlike some first time authors who rely solely on details of gore and bloody scenarios, Casey Douglass opts instead for story and character progression. And it works so well, you’ll be lost in those characters. Whether it’s a short piece of flash fiction or a medium size tale, you feel as if you’re in the world they are in." Dave - Horror Cabin.$0.99 = £0.99

It is also available on Amazon sites in other regions by searching for my name or the title.

Friday 4 July 2014

Dark Fiction - Skip


By Casey Douglass

As part of #fridayflash

I was nineteen when I learned how to skip forward through time. That probably makes me sound like a time traveler but it’s not quite that clever. It’s a mental thing. Somehow my body and mind still function but I’m not there. I never did work out where I went to but I always came back at the right time so didn’t worry about it too much.

I was waiting to go to the cinema one night, had about an hour and a half to kill but couldn’t decide what to do. I felt tired but had a racing mind so didn’t fancy resting as I usually ended up anxious. I didn’t want to watch anything or do much that used a screen as I would be spending a few hours in front of the local IMAX anyway, which usually made my eyes ache after a while. I thought about drawing or writing but no ideas came.

I felt myself getting wound up, that nervous energy feeling that was like a highly charged boredom. Agitation maybe. I sat back in my computer chair and stared off vacantly at nothing in particular. A thought crossed my mind about how cool it would be if I could just jump forward the hour or so and then be ready to go out. I nodded to myself, a whole body kind of agreement. I heard a car horn outside which sounded like my friend’s. I carried on gazing at nothing until the horn sounded again. Thinking he might have come round early I smiled. At least that would solve the boredom. I looked at the clock and felt my mouth hang. It was time to go!

I don’t remember much about the film. It was some action flick with swearing and a sex scene every fifteen minutes. I’m sure it was good but my mind was lost in pondering what had happened earlier.

When I got home, I tried to write down everything I remembered, my mental state, my thoughts and what I was feeling. I tried to skip forward again but it wouldn’t work. Shelving my notes I tried to sleep but couldn’t.

Sometime in the early hours, I began to fantasize about skipping to the time my alarm would be going off. I nodded to myself and flinched as the dim room turned to day and my alarm buzzed to my right!

I jumped to my notebook and jotted down my thoughts. The nod, the need. I turned to my clock and tried to skip ten minutes. The digits instantly changed to ten minutes later.

I yelled and whooped as the enormity dawned on me. I would never have to wait for anything again!

To date I haven’t! When the enthusiasm wore off, caution did play a part in my thought processes. I decided to record myself with my smartphone to see what happened to me when I was ‘out’. To my relief, I saw that I still functioned normally, even getting dressed, tidying my room and doing some of my art stuff. Everything I witnessed of my own behaviour seemed to point to me carrying on, doing the things I would have done anyway. Just without the boring stuff in between.

Reassured, I began to skip my way through life. You are probably thinking that having such an ability began to dent my levels of patience. If anything, I found that they were vastly improved. You save so much energy when you can cut out the agitated waiting for things: for appointments, for stuff to arrive in the post, for that party to happen. When I did want to knuckle down and do something that took a lot of concentration, like my drawing, I was there!

One thing I did find was that my drawing when I was ‘skipping’ was even better than when I was there. Maybe it was a case of getting out of my own way. Who knows.

There was a downside though, as you can probably imagine. It became a bit like an intolerance spreading. Say you are someone who doesn’t like adverts on TV. You might initially just dislike a handful of the most annoying ones, but as time progresses, you find more and more that you despise, until you avoid any advert at all costs. I became a bit like this with my time skips. I soon found myself skipping things that previously I would have looked forward to. It took a awhile to dawn on me but once it did, I knew I had to stop.

The turning point was the birth of my first little boy. I was twenty seven, married to Susan and we were both looking forward to our first child. It was a long and hard labour, something like thirty hours. To my shame I skipped it.

When I was back, Susan was asleep, the baby was in the small plastic crib thing that hospitals use and I was covered over with a blanket in a large chair. I walked to the baby, Mark I mean. We had already decided on Mark. His little chest was moving in and out as he slept peacefully, the odd twitch of his fingers putting me in mind of Socks our cat when she dreams.

I had a burning weight in my chest that seemed to flare out with every heartbeat. My jaw tensed and my eyes began to tear up. I had missed it! All for the sake of an easy ride! We hadn’t even filmed it like so many people do.

I remember leaving the hospital room and balling my eyes out in the nearest toilet. I swore to myself there and then that I would never skip again. And I never have.