A Night in the Lonesome October —
All is not what it seems…
In the murky London gloom, a knife-wielding gentleman named Jack prowls the midnight streets with his faithful watchdog Snuff – gathering together the grisly ingredients they will need for an upcoming ancient and unearthly rite. For soon after the death of the moon, black magic will summon the Elder Gods back into the world. And all manner of Players, both human and undead, are preparing to participate.
Some have come to open the gates. Some have come to slam them shut.
And now the dread night approaches – so let the Game begin.
October 31st – HALLOWEEN
The big day is finally here.
Snuff is restless. He does rounds where there are no rounds to do and looks in vain for Larry Talbot. Instead he meets Quicklime, the dead mad monk’s snake, who imparts the final bit of information to complete the puzzle; the Count is still in the game, having faked his staking and being under the protection of the Gypsies.
Snuff then has a final friendly word with Graymalk, who intimates they should stand close at the ritual, perhaps another foresight given to her from the old cat in the Dreamland? Snuff trusts his instinct and agrees.
He meets the rat, Bobo, who wants to play the game but is refused by Snuff as it’s too dangerous for civilians.
And then we get to it. The players gather on the hilltop and the balefire is lit. It appears that Jack and Snuff stand alone as Closers against the rest
The ritual begins, reality starts to shift as the Vicar takes charge and seems to be succeeding in opening the way.
The spanners in the works start to turn up. Firstly the Count arrives and declares himself a Closer, citing that he ‘likes the world just the way it is.’
Then Larry Talbot turns up to rescue the virgin. He is shot and wounded by the Vicar’s silver bullets, but the Great Detective, having learned Larry’s secrets, turns up in the guise of a wolf and gets the girl to safety.
The Count takes out the occultists and fights the Vicar, the Vicar seemingly winning. Then the big lumbering man arrives and all bets are off.
The ritual continues as chaos warps and shifts reality. Jill uses her wand to try to effect an opening. Talbot revives and he and the Vicar fight, both being dragged through the chaos gate.
Just as things seem lost, Bobo pops up out of Jack’s pocket and informs Snuff that he so much wanted to be part of the game that he’s ‘done what rats do’ which is mostly being sneaky. He has switched Jack and Jill’s wands so that Jill is now effectively a Closer. Snuff, remembering that the old cat in the Dreamland told him to ‘fetch the stick’ grabs the other wand, preventing Jack from inadvertently being an Opener.
The wand Jill wields does its job. The gate closes, another game is done. The Big Man carries the injured Count away, the magic starts to fade, Jack and Jill go down the hill.
Greymalk and Snuff follow after.
A wonderful climax, with Zelazny not holding back on the shifting chaos descriptions he’s so good at, and all the characters getting a conclusion to their part in the game.
I’ve had a great month reading this book so slowly, savoring each day like sipping a fine single malt. I hope you’ve had fun too if you’ve been reading along with me.
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to miss old Snuff in the mornings.
William Meikle is a Scottish writer, now living in Canada, with more than thirty novels published in the genre press and over 300 short story credits in thirteen countries.
He has books available from a variety of publishers including Dark Regions Press, Crossroad Press and Severed Press, and his work has appeared in a number of professional anthologies and magazines.
He lives in Newfoundland with whales, bald eagles and icebergs for company.
When he’s not writing he drinks beer, plays guitar, and dreams of fortune and glory.
The Green & the Black —
A small group of industrial archaeologists head into the center of Newfoundland, investigating a rumor of a lost prospecting team of Irish miners in the late Nineteenth century.
They find the remains of a mining operation, and a journal and papers detailing the extent of the miners’ activities. But there is something else on the site, something older than the miners, as old as the rock itself.
Soon the archaeologists are coming under assault, from a strange infection that spreads like wildfire through mind and body, one that doctors seem powerless to define let alone control.
The survivors only have one option. They must return to the mine, and face what waits for them, down in the deep dark places, where the green meets the black.