GUEST POST: Christine Morgan

Your Move, Martha

After my appearance on an episode of his Bizzong! podcast, the esteemed Mr. Frank described me as “the Martha Stewart of extreme horror.” Now, there’s a moniker I never would have expected, but, nonetheless, gleefully embraced.

(The invariable immediate follow-up question is usually “so then who’s your Snoop?”, the answer to which is equally invariable and immediate: Jeff Burk, forever one of my favorite people in the world!)

Anyway, this came about because of my propensity to bake creepy cookies and cupcakes, and make creepy crafts, many of which I like to bring to events or present to my fellow creepy creatives. They’re great for book launches, readings, conventions, surprise gifts.

Many of these demented experiments spring from my own imagination, or are inspired by the works of others; I’ve done doll-mods, crafts, and baked goods inspired by book covers, characters, concepts, etc. I made death’s head moths for the fine folks at Death’s Head Press, sent the publisher at Bloodshot Books a giant painted ceramic bloodshot eyeball, and gave Brian Keene a batch of handmade “clickers.”

But, for the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus solely on weird shit I’ve made based on some famous horror films. Doll-mods, mostly, with a few other odds and ends (mainly odds) thrown in.

The earliest of these, chronologically speaking, was this nut-people version of Carrie at the prom, which I made for my daughter:

Also from the nut-people line, a nice little nightmare I like to call the Pecan Centipede:

Which, by the way, had a much larger cousin one year for Halloween:

Now, at some point along the line, I’d ordered a bunch of craft supply ‘book boxes,’ which aren’t boxes to store books but boxes shaped like books. A DIY Necronomicon was, of course, a must!

The doll-mods, though, always provide the biggest challenge, and tend to be the most fun. I’ve included pics from the movies I used as my reference in most cases, to see how close I was able to get with little more than a hot glue gun and paint.

Whenever I’m asked my favorite horror monster, the answer has got to be the classic Gill-Man. He was my daughter’s fave, too; while other kids were checking out cartoon movies from the library, she would beeline right for Creature From The Black Lagoon every time. So, naturally, I had to make a doll of him for her!

And who doesn’t love that lunkhead, Jordy Verrill? Portrayed in Creepshow by none other than Stephen King himself?

Now, sometimes there are moments in movies maybe meant to be horrific, but turn out more hilarious instead. For me, one such moment is in the original Fright Night; hello, Amy!

If some of your friends are so obsessed with a franchise they even have a Friday the 13th themed wedding, well …

Speaking of things providing challenges, by the way, the hardest part of this build was having to make the damn tricycle!

One challenge, however, I did not undertake was my roommate-at-the-time’s suggestion to make this one spew green goop:

Occasionally, I will make something that creeps even me out, so I am very glad the awesome Mary SanGiovanni agreed to give this one a good home:

As terrific and fun as was Cabin in the Woods, I think we all agree the by-far best bits came when we got to see all the other options, and dream of the alternate versions of the movie that could have been. Like, say, either of these two:

Hail to the king, baby. ‘nuff said.

And, to finish with a drastic departure from crafts into cooking, who’s hungry for some SHARKTATO MEATNADO?

Yes, that is a bacon-wrapped meatloaf tornado with potatoes carved into sharks. Life is too short to make plain old boring loaf-shaped meatloaf. I could do a whole other post about those culinary experiments too.

Do I deserve the title Mr. Frank so graciously bestowed upon me? I am far from an expert, far from having my own entire multi-million-dollar brand name and empire. But, for now, I can just say — and after seeing her as a judge on Chopped, I know she’s one of the scariest people alive — your move, Martha!

Christine’s Crazy Cat-Lady Stuff


Boo-graphy:
Christine Morgan recently quit her night-shift job and moved from rainy Portland to sunny Southern California to help out her mom and hopefully make a plunge as a full-time writer. Several months later, she’s still reeling from the culture shock of adjusting to daytime life, but finally has a real office/library full of bookshelves and critter skeletons, as well as a dinosaur-themed bedroom. Because she is a) a grown up and b) a professional.

Christine Morgan’s World of Words
Amazon

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Christine Morgan

Meghan: Hey Christine! Welcome back. As always, we love to have you here. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Christine: The weeks leading up to it, when all the good stuff starts hitting the shelves, the Halloween stores appear overnight like mushrooms, the various cooking channel shows like Halloween Wars and Halloween Baking Championship, the horror-themed episodes of shows such as Forged in Fire, there are horror movie marathons. Also, the half-off sales in the days after.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Christine: Trick-or-treating, seeing all the costumes, the fun and excitement, people really getting into it, the kids, the parents. These past few years haven’t been the best for that, partly because of living in the upstairs unit of an apartment complex that didn’t see much trick-or-treat traffic. This year, however, I’ve moved into what was my grandparents’ house, in an established neighborhood with community activities, so I’m optimistic (aside from the damn pandemic, that is).

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

Christine: Just always been a spooky weirdo at heart! Didn’t hurt that my dad was always a kind of closeted weirdo, with Halloween being the one time he could cut loose. Later in life, he’d come out and go nuts as a Civil War reenactor, but before that, dressing up and having fun on Halloween was his favorite thing. I remember one year, he went as Jesus — he already had long hair and a full beard — and we used red nail polish instead of fake blood for the wounds, which is a helpful trick I’ve never forgotten.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Christine: I’m into folklore, so I’ve picked up several of the little habits over the years, if not to the full point of observing or following them, at least to the point of feeling uncomfortable letting them go unacknowledged. I knock on wood, I toss salt over my shoulder, when I first see the moon at night I say the little rhyme I learned somewhere as a kid, that sort of thing. Except for black cats crossing my path; I have no problem with that. Black cats got a bad rap, very undeserved.

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

Christine: Of the movie classics, always had a soft spot for the Gillman. He wasn’t bothering anybody, just swimming around in his lagoon, until arrogant know-it-all humans came along to interfere. Then HE got the blame. I tend to sympathize with those kind of “monsters,” who are just doing their own thing. Even sharks. We go into their environment, then get upset when they do what’s only natural? So bogus.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Christine: Unlike many in my middle-aged white woman demographic, I don’t seem to have as much obsessive fascination for serial killers, unsolved crimes, and murder shows. If it counts, though, I really want to know what’s up with all those severed feet that keep washing ashore. Why just the feet? Is it the shoes? Where’s the rest of the bodies? What’s happening out there?

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Christine: After the previous question, this is going to seem even stranger, but, the one where gang members, as part of their initiation, would hide under a lady’s car in a dark parking lot and then slash her Achilles tendon and steal her shoes as proof. Maybe it’s that I can imagine it all too vividly. Even as I type this, I shifted my feet up onto the coffee table, though I know damn well there’s nobody under the couch with a straight razor. Also, that was the scene in the original Pet Sematary movie to freak me out the most.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Christine: See above, was never all that into them the way a lot of people are. The old-timey ones, though, like H.H. Holmes with his entire murder hotel, or the angel-of-death types, nurses who’d smother patients in the belief it was putting them out of their misery and doing the right thing.

Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?

Christine: It probably wasn’t the first I ever saw, but the first movie to scare the crap out of me as a kid was that old black and white sci-fi Invaders From Mars. The sand whirlpools were bad, but the people with the alien takeover staples in their necks… legit gave me nightmares. There was a DVD of it among my late uncle’s movie collection and I kept it for nostalgia, but have no intention of watching it! As for books, my grandfather kept a shelf of horror paperbacks in the garage (Grandma didn’t want them in the house), so I’d browse those whenever we visited. Lots of nature-run-amok books, killer critters, but I still have the copy of The Shining I found out there when I was ten.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Christine: I read, and dearly love, a lot of sick, sick, wrong, evil, grotesque, extreme horror. And yet, none of them have gotten under my skin a fraction so much as I Am Not Sam, by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee. So subtle. So masterful. It lets/makes your own mind do all the work, with results far more traumatizing and horrifying than if the scenes were spelled out on the page.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Christine: Again, see above, Invaders From Mars when I was little. Lately, I’ve been viewing too many cinematic masterpieces suggested by Edward Lee, and if “stabbed me in the eyes and gave me brain-damage” sheer WTF-ery counts as being scarred for life, well, I now have a whole list. Such as Birdemic and House Shark. Also The Greasy Strangler, though I can’t blame Lee for that one; if anything, he should blame me, even if it was Gina Ranalli who told me about it in the first place.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Christine: One year, Dad went as Captain Hook and I was Peter Pan (the chonky little girl version) and my baby sister was Tinkerbell. I love it when people coordinate their costumes like that, and the whole family gets into it. My craft and makeup skills may be pretty good, but my sewing skills are basically nonexistent, so I am somewhat hampered in that regard.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Christine: Forever a soft spot in my heart for Thriller, I gotta say. I am old enough to remember rushing home from school to turn on MTV and wait anxiously for the video’s world premiere. The Vincent Price bit is perfection. And, hokey though it is, I love how the zombie dance permeated the entire culture.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?

Christine: The fun-size 100,000 Dollar Bars. Full-size ones are too hard to eat before they melt and get all messy. Fun-size Twix, too. I’m a fan of the fun-size because then I can tell myself it’s not like I’m eating a whole candy bar, right? So I can then eat like six of them and it’s still all good. Also, because it seems to come up every year, I am pro-candy corn. Yes, it tastes like sugary wax and leaves a filmy coating in your mouth, but, you can tuck them under your upper lip like vampire teeth and that’s what matters. As for disappointing, anything with coconut or licorice is a hard NOPE from me.

Meghan: As always, Christine, it has been a pleasure. Before you go, though, what are your op Halloween movies?

Christine: I may lose some horror cred for this, but when I think of Halloween movies, the first place my mind goes is Tim Burton. The Nightmare Before Christmas, obviously. Sleepy Hollow, Corpse Bride. Even stuff like Edward Scissorhands (Vincent Price again, yay!) and Sweeney Todd. Okay, so maybe a mad crush on Johnny Depp has something to do with it — my own, I mean, not Tim Burton’s, though you know he totally has one. And as long as I’m losing horror cred anyway, I’ll go ahead and say I liked Halloween 3. It didn’t belong in the franchise, and should have had a different title, but on its own, it’s a neat premise/idea and lots of fun.


Boo-graphy:
Christine Morgan recently quit her night-shift job and moved from rainy Portland to sunny Southern California to help out her mom and hopefully make a plunge as a full-time writer. Several months later, she’s still reeling from the culture shock of adjusting to daytime life, but finally has a real office/library full of bookshelves and critter skeletons, as well as a dinosaur-themed bedroom. Because she is a) a grown up and b) a professional.

Christine Morgan’s World of Words
Amazon

Christine Takeover 12: Christine Morgan: The Elf

The Elf

A Story by Christine Morgan
3,638 words

It started last Christmas, that must have been it. Weirdest thing that ever happened to me in my life – or so I thought at the time.

Now, this Christmas, I know a little better.

My name’s Belle, Clayton Belle, and I always hated this time of year.

I blame it on my folks. Sure, everybody blames their problems on their folks, but you should have seen mine.

My dad’s name was Jim Belle, but from after Halloween until round about New Year’s, he told everyone to call him Jingle. Dressed in red and green every chance he got. Decorated the house like you wouldn’t believe. My mom was just as bad, and she had no excuse… her given name was Carol.

They wanted me to swap “Clay” for, can you guess? Sleigh. No joke. I tell you, it was enough to drive a kid crazy. Here I was trying to be normal

That was why, as soon as I was old enough to get out on my own, I gave up on Christmas. No, that’s putting it too lightly… I went out of my way to avoid the whole thing.

Maybe that’s why it happened. Maybe it was some strange message, some sort of off-the-wall Christmas revenge. Like in the story about Scrooge, except I didn’t get three ghosts. Didn’t even get one.

What’d I get? Some little freak with rabies…

I’d done pretty good at getting away from it all. I’d finally saved up enough to move out of the apartment into a house, tiny but my own. I had a telecommuting job, which spared me the yearly hassle of office parties, Secret Santas, holiday music over the intercom, and all that.

So, for the first time in years, I was expecting a nice, stress-free December.

Then it happened. Christmas Eve.

That was when I heard the bells.

Jingle-jingle-jingle, clanging and grating on my nerves, bringing back all my tension like it had never been away.

I shot to my feet, fists curled. If this was the preface to a spontaneous outbreak of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” from trespassing carolers, I was going to blast them with the hose and 20-degree temperatures be damned!

Stalking to the door, I yanked it open. But already, the sound was receding, dwindling into the distance… and even then I remember thinking that it almost seemed to be receding upward… but of course I didn’t give that idea a moment’s serious consideration.

Not then.

The people across the street were the Jaimesons. I’d seen them come home a week or so ago with a tree lashed to the roof of their car, but they were good about it, and kept their stuff private. If they wanted to be as looney as my parents in the privacy of their own home, that was their business, and they didn’t try to inflict it on the rest of us.

But now, something was hanging on their door. Even at midnight, every house on the street dark and sleeping, I couldn’t miss it. The full moon and the snow conspired to make it almost as bright as day, and the wreath that now hung on the Jaimeson’s door was twinkling with tiny red and white bulbs, like holly berries amid the shiny green leaves.

And there was something on the porch… from here, it was a bump of scarlet and white in an uncertain shape.

I couldn’t help it… anger set in. Some nerve the Jaimesons had, sneaking out in the night to put up that wreath, thinking no one would notice. Before I fully knew I meant to, I was striding down my walk, slippers crunching through the crust of the snow. I crossed the icy street and marched up their lawn, driving deep tracks. They’d see, they’d know, but I didn’t care.

The crumpled shape was recognizable now, a stocking. A plush cranberry-red velvet stocking with a ruff of white fur. It was lumpy… it was moving.

A nasty spear of fright jumped through me before I realized that the movement was due to nothing more than a toy, a child’s wind-up toy that had been jogged by the fall to the porch.

I could see it easily in my mind – Hank Jaimeson in full Santa regalia, smuggling in the sacks of goodies he’d had hidden in the garage, but dropping a stocking as he paused to put the wreath on the door.

My intent was to pull it down and pitch it, maybe onto the roof, maybe into the bushes, I don’t know. But as I reached for it, I heard a high mewling sound from inside the stocking.

My first thought was that it was a kitten, that old Hank had gotten his daughters a kitty but didn’t notice when it fell from his bag.

My second thought was that it would serve them right, a nice gruesome Christmas surprise to find frozen solid on the stoop.

But I may have been a Scrooge, I may have been a Grinch, I may have been a sour old jerk, but I wasn’t a total bastard. Couldn’t leave an innocent kitten to freeze to death in the night.

I bent down and scooped up the stocking. It squirmed in my grasp, and yes, there was something warm, something alive, in there.

“Hey, kitty-kitty,” I said.

I reached in, meaning to pet the soft bundle of fur.

Instead, my fingers found skin.

And an unbelievable explosion of pain.

It was like a spring-loaded beartrap of needles, sinking into the tender web between my thumb and index finger.

I screamed or cursed, or both mingled, and flung the stocking away from me. It flew off into the snow, but the biter held on, dangling at the end of my arm. My flailing motions made it clamp down tighter, and now rockets of pain were shooting up my arm to my head, where they burst like the Fourth of July – a holiday I’ve never had a problem with.

But I did have a problem with what I was seeing. A major one.

An elf was battened onto my hand.

An elf, yes, that’s what I said.

He was about eighteen inches high, maybe two feet, it was hard to tell. Built like one of those pudgy little gnome you sometimes see on the lawns of people who should know better, but light as a feather. He was wearing short pants (winter-white), a red vest, and those dorky curled-up shoes with bells on the toes. If he’d had a hat, it had fallen off, because his pine-green hair was blowing free around a set of ears that would have made Mr. Spock blush.

His eyes were the huge winsome adorable eyes of a cartoon character, but no cartoon character’s eyes had ever glittered with such a hard and flat hatred. A snarl, muffled by his mouthful of my hand, issued from the back of his throat.

screamed again, this time more in horror than pain, though there was still pain, plenty of it. With my other hand, I grabbed him around his potbellied middle and tried to tear him loose.

It didn’t work. Those fangs were embedded like a snake’s. But abruptly, the elf let go of his own accord. He scrambled up my arm, headed for my face.

My third scream broke decibel records. I reeled and staggered, trying to knock this deranged thing off of me. The backs of my legs hit the Jaimesons’ planter and I toppled over backward, feet flying. My breath was jarred out of me in a huge frosty cloud.

The crazed elf skittered onto my chest, his impish face twisted in pure madness. I didn’t know what he was going to do, and suddenly had a bizarre vision, one that might have been funny if it hadn’t been so hideous – my disembodied head impaled on the top of a Christmas tree in place of a star.

The Jaimesons’ door banged open, throwing a fan of light onto the snow. The elf hissed and was gone, springing from my chest in a bound that carried him into the concealing bushes.

The next thing I knew, Hank Jaimeson was there, in a robe, his eyes puffed from sleep and wide with shock. His wife and kids crowded into the doorway, all babbling at once.

Calls were made, to the police and to an ambulance. I was taken to the hospital because they thought I was having some sort of a breakdown. They had to think that, because I wasn’t wounded. The bite-mark on my hand was gone, except for a semi-circle of tiny white scars that almost looked like snowflakes.

I did some time under observation, and more time in court-ordered therapy. The consensus was that I must have snapped under the holiday strain. When I finally got home, the neighbors treated me with caution and even more distance than before.

The Jaimesons moved out that spring, the whole turn of events having been so traumatizing for their kids – waking to my panicked screams on Christmas gave little Amber Jaimeson nightmares for weeks.

But eventually, things got back to normal. Or so I thought.

I was fine until around October.

That was when I started to feel restless. Itchy, almost. Impatient, dissatisfied. I didn’t know what I wanted, but something was missing. Something I needed.

A few days after Halloween, as I was lugging the shells of my jack-o-lanterns out to the trash, I caught myself humming.

Humming a Christmas carol.

Appalled, I stopped then and there with my feet buried in a drift of leaves and a slightly mushy pumpkin sagging in my grip. I silently asked myself if I’d really been doing that, but I’d heard me. I could even Name That Tune – it had been “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

About a week later, I saw that they’d stocked the shelves in the dairy section of the local market with the first eggnog of the season, and my heart took an unprecedented and distinctly unwelcome leap of joy.

When I got home from my errands and started unloading my groceries, I found a carton of eggnog.

I wasted no time but raced right back to the market. The cashier who’d checked out my purchases was still there, and I stormed up to her, not sure if I meant to apologize for taking the eggnog by mistake or to berate her for mixing it in with my order.

But she told me that I had bought it, and had even remarked on how glad I was that they finally had some in the store. And that when she had replied with something to the effect of how it seemed the holiday season started earlier and earlier every year, I’d said ‘good!’

Good!

I had no recollection of that at all, and would have never said such a thing! Not me! Not Clayton Belle!

I decided she must have been having fun at my expense, and put it out of my mind. I planned to dump the eggnog down the sink and forget the whole matter.

I drank it instead.

I didn’t mean to… I just took the carton out of the fridge – and only then did it occur to me to wonder why I hadn’t returned it to the store and gotten my money back – and opened it.

And the scent hit me in a great rolling wave of creamy, nutmeggy temptation… and before I knew what was happening, I was guzzling it straight from the carton with such gulping greed that overflows were running in rills down my chin.

I leaned over the sink, nauseated and afraid, wondering if I was going to bring it back up. But it stayed, a thick liquid weight in my stomach, and I imagined I could feel it spreading out in there, sending out tendrils of itself, into my veins, coating my organs, being carried to every cell of my body.

Another week passed, and I was cranky all the time, missing something, needing something, not knowing what it was. Little things kept happening, distressing little things. Nothing big, nothing like the Great Eggnog Experience, but upsetting ones all the same.

Being at the drugstore, having to walk down the seasonal aisle to reach the pharmacy, and lingering over the cards and garlands that had begun to creep in among the turkeys and harvest decorations.

Shopping a catalog for some new clothes and only realizing when my order arrived that some of the things I’d bought were eerily familiar – winter-white pants, a red cardigan vest. And a green knitted cap, where had that come from?

Waking in the middle of the night with the most terrible craving for cookies, not just any cookies but specific kinds. I had to have the butter-shortbread ones crusted with colored sugar… I had to have gingerbread.

Then things started getting worse.

I bought a box of candy canes and ate them all in the car, the entire sticky red-and-white dozen of them, until my tongue and lips were bright pink and the taste of sweet mint seemed to permeate my entire being.

I found myself taking long aimless drives around town to look at the holiday lights and decorations… I even went to the mall and stood amid a smiling crowd as little kids waited for their turns on Santa’s lap.

I was humming again, and then singing low, and finally singing aloud, whenever I heard the carols… and I knew every single word.

I had been flipping channels and happened across a Christmas movie, the one about the boy who wanted a BB-gun. And, telling myself that nothing else good was on, wound up watching it. And then, worst of all, realizing it was a marathon, 24 hours of that same movie, and I stayed up all night watching it and fell asleep in my chair and woke up and kept watching it, until noon the next day.

The day it all came crashing down on me, I was at the park. It was December 22nd and I’d gone for a long brisk walk, hoping that the cold air and exercise would snap me out of this constant state of alternating trance and terror.

A woman said ‘Merry Christmas!’ to me, and I said it right back at her.

She passed without looking back, which was good, because my expression would have horrified her. It horrified me and I didn’t even have to see it; I could feel it. That was the first time those words had passed my lips in almost twenty years, but I hadn’t just been saying them.

I’d meant them!

I uttered a rusty screech and ran for home. Something was happening to me… I had to get help… there had to be something they could do…

I reached my yard and the strength ran right out of me like water through a sieve.

Lights sparkled along the eaves and around the windows of my house. More lights, string after string of them, wrapped the fence and the tree in the front yard. A red ribbon had been wound around the post that supported the mailbox, giving it an effect that could be construed as barber-pole but I knew better! A plastic reindeer with a red lightbulb for a nose stood beside the walk, and a wreath hung on the door.

It was the wreath that pushed me over, because it was practically identical to the one that had been on the Jaimesons’ door last year. Their house had sold but the current owners were spending the winter in Arizona with their grandkids, and thus hadn’t seen the terrible thing that had taken place across the street.

Someone had decorated my house!

No… I had done it. And couldn’t remember doing it.

Haltingly, scared to death of what I might find inside, I went up to the door. The wreath seemed to stare at me like a big round eye, laugh at me like a big round mouth.

I wanted to rip it down, rip all of it down. What would people think if they saw this? What would they say?

I steeled myself and plunged inside.

If I could have drawn breath, it would have been last year’s business all over again, for I would have screamed and screamed until the neighbors called 911. But my breath was stolen from me by the sight of the interior of my house.

It was a nightmare made real. That’s all I’ll say. I can’t bear to describe how tall the tree was, how many garlands festooned the stairway banister, what horrors awaited me on the mantle. I can’t stand to think of the candles, the presents, the three-tiered tray of cookies and fudge and divinity.

Even the bathroom wasn’t safe, because the shower curtain, the towels, even the toilet-lid cover, had been replaced by new ones in a poinsettia pattern. But despite that, the bathroom was still the least objectionable place in the house, and it was there that I collapsed in a dead faint.

I woke over twenty-four hours later to unbelievable pain in my hand and arm. Dimly sure that I must have been laying on them, I pushed myself up and looked.

The scars… the tiny semicircle of snowflake-shaped scars… they had faded nearly to invisibility over the year but now they were back. Standing out in vivid relief, almost seeming to wax and wane in time with the throbbing I felt in every nerve.

And yet, even with the throbbing, even with an ache that seemed to burrow into my bones, I felt full of a hectic, wild energy. Mania, almost. No, not almost… it was mania. I wanted to do something, had to get up and get moving, but I didn’t know what.

I tried to rise, shakily got as far as the sink, and caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror.

But at first, I didn’t know it was me… I had never in my life worn a silly little pointy cap with a bell on the end.

I cried out, thinking it was a stranger, an intruder, that I’d surprised in my home. My reflection reacted along with me and then I knew, but that knowing was untempered with relief.

I looked… different. It wasn’t just because of the cap.

My hair looked wrong. Longer.

My eyes were huge, but I attributed that to shock and fear.

My ears…

I didn’t want to see any more, and fell back onto the bathmat.

The ache intensified. I could hear the radio playing in the other room, tuned to the nonstop holiday music station.

I felt as if I was being crushed, slowly crushed under an impossible weight. I imagined I could hear my bones crunching, feel myself being squashed, compressed. An appalling, stretchy sensation tugged at my ears.

A dark corner of my mind knew then what was happening to me, but the rest of my mind rejected it. Ignoring the pain and the horrendous things that were going on in my body, I got up to splash cold water on my face…

And couldn’t reach the sink.

I was standing, but I was on eye-level with the cabinet where I kept the cleanser and spare rolls of tissue.

Very, very slowly and very much against my will, I looked down at myself.

Yes, I was standing… assuming those were my feet in the curly-toed shoes about eighteen inches below my head. Assuming that was my torso I was seeing, pooching out into a potbelly.

A wavery, uncertain noise came from my throat. I started to bring up my hands, to explore my head, but paused and let them drop. I had to see.

With strenuous effort, I clambered onto the toilet, and from there onto the counter. I edged out around the basin, keeping my eyes on my shoes – my horrible curly-toed shoes – until I was there.

Then I looked.

An elf looked back at me.

It had my blond hair, only grown long and silky. My brown eyes, cartoon-character cute. My features… changed and made sharper, fairer, more… elfin.

I opened my mouth to finally voice the scream that would rouse the neighborhood, maybe even the town. But before I could finish drawing my breath, my gaze fell on what was also shown in the mirror, the reflection of my dining room beyond the half-open bathroom door.

The table was covered with things. With tools, and paint-pots, and lengths of wood, and stuffing, and wheels. Half-finished toys were scattered all over the table, and a box of finished ones rested underneath. The mania that had been surging in me now came roaring up full-force.

Because time was short! Time was so very short! Tomorrow was Christmas Eve!

Tomorrow was Christmas Eve and I was behind in my work!

I yipped in alarm, sprang down from the sink in a sprightly hop, and rushed to my workbench.

And I knew, as I picked up my paintbrush to apply rouge-spots to the cheeks of a dolly, what I was. I knew what would happen to me this time every year, not ruled by the phases of the moon but by the seasons, when the change would set in.

Helpless to resist, caught in the grips of the dreadful transformation, compelled by my hungers and driven to do unspeakable things… with no folklore, no gypsy woman, no one to help me or tell me how to break the curse…

The terrible curse of the were-elf!

Christine Morgan grew up in the high desert and moved to a cool rainy coast as soon as she could. Though anything but the outdoorsy type, she loves trees and water … preferably viewed through a cozy window or from the deck of a cruise ship. Alaska, Norway, Scotland, and Germany/Austria are her vacation destinations of choice. Seeing the Northern Lights in person is on her bucket list. She’s currently three cats toward her eventual fate as a crazy cat lady; yes, she does talk to them, but don’t worry, she draws the line at knitting them little sweaters (because she can’t knit).

Halloween Extravaganza: Christine Morgan: George

Today, Christine Morgan joins us to tell us about the most important part of her Halloween… George.


For some, the ritual involves a trip to the pumpkin patch, maybe haunted hayrides, a corn maze. For others, it’s the ceremonial carving and lighting of the jack-o-lantern, or deciding on a costume, or stocking up on trick-or-treat goodies (sometimes early, so you oops have to go buy more before the big night arrives).

I am in favor of all those things, but, for me, THE main thing about Halloween prep involves setting up a George. Halloween just does not feel right without a George. When I was a kid, as far back as I can remember, we always had a George.

George. That first George, the one from my childhood, had a saggy scowly old-man face with warts and a hooked nose, mean little slits for eyes, and scraggly greyish hair. He wore a plaid lumberjack style shirt, overalls, scuffed brown work boots, thick gardening gloves, sometimes a hat. He sat in the blue chair we hauled outside for the occasion, between the front stoop and the garage side door. Maybe he’d have a carved pumpkin on his lap, maybe a bowl of candy.

I loved George. Even after the first year I thought I was big and brave enough to go trick-or-treating without my parents, and did fine until I got back to my very own yard and realized I’d have to go past George to get in the house. I had never been scared of George before. I ended up crying at the bottom of the driveway, until a kind neighbor lady took pity on me and walked me to the door.

Now, I KNEW, even in my young brain, that George was harmless. Hadn’t I helped set him up myself? Wadding newspaper to stuff into his legs and arms? Tugging his mask down over his styrofoam wig-head? Propping him up just right, just so? Posing with him for pictures? I knew George. I loved George. And yet … that year, cowering in the dark with my pillowcase full of candy … that year, for the first time … I finally understood.

Good ol’ George. All the neighborhood kids became familiar with him over the years. They’d call, “Hi, George!” as they approached to knock. The littler ones might hide their faces, have to be coaxed past him. The older and bolder – swaggering tween boys, most often – would dare each other to go up and poke him, or flick his nose.

My dad was always into Halloween. Looking back, it probably explains how he eventually became a Civil War re-enactor, being able to dress up all the time. We’d often do themed costumes; I remember being a chunky little girl Peter Pan one year, with my baby sister as Tinkerbell and Dad as Captain Hook. I remember another year, Dad, who had long hair and a full beard, put on a white caftan and sandals and a crown of plastic thorns to go as Jesus.

Then, one year, Dad didn’t pick a costume. Dad had another plan. That year, when the evening of October 31 rolled around and we still hadn’t made a George, I found out why, because Dad donned George’s outfit, mask and gloves and all. Dad sat in the blue chair between the garage door and stoop. Sat very still, totally motionless. Sat there … waiting.

I lingered eagerly to watch. Soon enough, along came the trick-or-treaters, including some of those older-bolder swagger boys. All “Hi, George” sneering, going right up to him, reaching to flick his nose. Just like they’d done plenty of times before.

Only, this time, ‘George’ lunged forward in his chair, going “Raarrrr!” And oh, my goodness, did those boys hit the high notes? Could you have heard them from blocks away? Did they run, even dropping plastic pumpkin buckets to spill across the yard? Why, yes, yes indeed. There may even have been pants-wetting. It was glorious. Simply glorious. You’d better believe, next year, George was greeted with far more respect.

It never occurred to me back then … in fact, it never occurred to me until just a few years ago, and I’m now 52 … to wonder why his name was George. When the question finally did surface, I asked my parents. No luck. Not even Dad could recall just how George had gotten his name in the first place. It just WAS.

Looking back, I’d like to theorize it was in homage to George Romero. We used to watch a lot of Saturday night black and white creature-features. I had the Hammer horror glow-in-the-dark model kits, and monster movie trading cards. I got most of my reading material from the bookshelf my grandma made my grandfather keep in the garage – seeing Grady Hendrix do his Paperbacks From Hell presentation was a wallop of nostalgia right back to my childhood.

So, yeah, I’d like to think it was for Romero, maybe, maybe not. We’ll never know. What I do know is, once I was grown up, moved away, done with college, and ready to be a responsible adult (well, more or less), I needed a new George of my very own. Had to keep up the family tradition! Especially once I had a kid! It couldn’t be a proper Halloween without a George.

These days, my George is bald and pruney, with a blue-grey kind of drowned/dead complexion going on. He wears blood-spattered surgical scrub pants and a stained white long-johns shirt. One of his gloves grips the handle of a bloody cleaver. Instead of just a chair, he has an entire butcher shop, filling my porch with tables of body parts, choice cuts of meat, jars of organs, and the various violent tools of his trade.

He even has company in the form of the lovely Roxy, who went from being a dead hooker in a box (found her at a haunted house garage sale one summer, that was what it said on the sign) to a mutilated prom queen, before signing on as George’s shop assistant, resplendent in red-soaked apron and chef’s hat over her raw, flayed flesh. Classes the place up a bit.

To complete the effect, costumed visitors are given a choice when they knock at my door. They say “Trick or Treat,” and I say “Candy or Meat?” Because, yes, every year, I have a supply of lunchmeat packets as well as a bowl of candy.

The reactions, from kids and parents alike, is always priceless. The sight of an eight-year-old running down the walk, waving a packet of ham, hollering “That lady gave us MEAT!” … the ones who’ve torn them open and scarfed them right there on the porch … the previously bored dad who was all “hey, I want some too!” … makes it memorable, makes it fun.

That, to me, is what Halloween is all about. And it’s all thanks to a guy called George.

Christine Morgan grew up in the high desert and moved to a cool rainy coast as soon as she could. Though anything but the outdoorsy type, she loves trees and water … preferably viewed through a cozy window or from the deck of a cruise ship. Alaska, Norway, Scotland, and Germany/Austria are her vacation destinations of choice. Seeing the Northern Lights in person is on her bucket list. She’s currently three cats toward her eventual fate as a crazy cat lady; yes, she does talk to them, but don’t worry, she draws the line at knitting them little sweaters (because she can’t knit).

White Death

January 12, 1888 

When a day dawns warm and mild in the middle of a long cold winter, it’s greeted as a blessing, a reprieve. A chance for those who’ve been cooped up indoors to get out, do chores, run errands, send the children to school … little knowing that they’re only seeing the calm before the storm. 

The blizzard hits out of nowhere, screaming across the Great Plains like a runaway train. It brings slicing winds, blinding snow, plummeting temperatures. Livestock will be found frozen in the fields, their heads encased in blocks of ice formed from their own steaming breath. Frostbite and hypothermia wait for anyone caught without shelter. 

For the hardy settlers of Far Enough, in the Montana Territory, it’s about to get worse. Something else has arrived with the blizzard. Something sleek and savage and hungry. Wild animal or vengeful spirit from native legend, it blends into the snow and bites with sharper teeth than the wind. 

Spermjackers from Hell

Let’s summon a succubus, they said. It’ll be fun, they said… 

I have some friends and we had a crazy idea: let’s summon a demon. Not just any demon but a sexy devil chick that will do anything we want—even butt stuff. It’ll be easy. It’s not like it’s going to work. Monsters aren’t real. 

We were wrong. Really fucking wrong. 

The demon is not what we thought and it’s making horrible things happen. People are cutting into each other’s junk, some guy is fucking his dog, and sex slugs from Hell are raping us and stealing our semen in order to build a goddamn hive! 

We didn’t mean for any of this. But we’re gonna fix it… Just after a few more beers and bong hits. 

From Christine Morgan, author of Mythic Lust: the Minotaur, and The Raven’s Table: Viking Stories, comes a sleazy and deviant satire about sex, occultism, and nerd culture.

Lakehouse Infernal

Lake Misquamicus was an unremarkable lake in Florida, unremarkable that is until suddenly it was filled with six billion gallons of blood, bile, pus, piss, shit and …things… directly from the pits of Hell. First the public was in shock, then the government built a wall, and as time passed it became another urban legend. But for some, it has become a travel destination. Spring-breakers, drug-runners, and religious nuts. But a weekend getaway on the shores of Hell, may not be the safest idea… 

With an introduction by and officially endorsed by splatterpunk legend Edward Lee, LAKEHOUSE INFERNAL is an official entree in Lee’s infamous INFERNAL series. Christine Morgan expands on this universe with her own twist of hardcore horror tourism. 

The Raven’s Table: Viking Stories

Listen…

The furious clangor of battle. The harrowing singing of steel. The desperate cries of wounded animals. The gasps of bleeding, dying men. The slow, deep breathing of terrible things–trolls, giants, draugr–waiting in the darkness. The wolf’s wind howling, stalking like death itself. The carrion-crows, avaricious and impatient, circling the battle-ground, the Raven’s Table.

Listen…

The skald’s voice, low, canting, weaving tales of fate and heroism, battle and revelry. Of gods and monsters, and of the women and men that stand against them. Of stormy Scandinavian skies and settlements upon strange continents. Of mead-hall victories, funeral pyres, dragon-prowed ships, and gold-laden tombs. Of Ragnarok. Of Valhalla.

For a decade, author Christine Morgan’s Viking stories have delighted readers and critics alike, standing apart from the anthologies they appeared in. Now, Word Horde brings you The Raven’s Table, the first-ever collection of Christine Morgan’s Vikings, from “The Barrow-Maid” to “Aerkheim’s Horror” and beyond. These tales of adventure, fantasy, and horror will rouse your inner Viking.