Adam Light has been one of my cheerleaders since I first began book blogging, and along with his brother, participated in the very first Halloween shenanigans – back in 2014 when this thing only lasted SIX days. Unfortunately, as happens, life kept getting in the way after his second Halloween appearance, and he was unable to share in the frivolities… until this year. He mentioned that he was going to write me a little story (the two of them each surprised me with stories in 2015) and I can’t tell you how excited I was to hear that. I have been a fan of the Light Brothers since I first started reading their stories and feel honored to share this, Part 2 of one of my absolute favorite stories by him (Tommy Rotten). Make sure you turn the lights off for this one… for dramatic effect. They are the PERFECT tale for the Friday before Halloween.

The Rottens

The Donnerly House languished in utter disrepair at the end of Cypress Lane, where once upon a time an opportunistic killer had taken a boy’s life, and started the legend of Tommy Rotten.

The boy, Tommy Rachen, had vanished without a trace on Halloween, and it was said that he now haunted the Donnerly House, and lured other children into his pumpkin patch to “rot” with him. Thus, the name.

The local legend had grown when a girl from a nearby home had disappeared on Halloween a few years ago. It had been whispered that Tommy Rotten had taken a wife. And now their tale’s woeful lesson gained traction not just in the neighborhood, but across the state, and beyond.

Carol Rotten only wanted one thing, a child. There was a growing divide between Tommy and her, a hole only the love of a child could fill.

Though she had sought out her new husband willingly enough, he had thoughtlessly pulled her over to this wasteland, and imprisoned her with him.

There was no escape, but in true death. She was content to stay in whatever state that passed for life she existed in now, but she needed some better company if she was going to be damned to rot with Tommy.

Tommy had sternly warned her that if she crossed back to the other side, she would not last very long, as the dead could never be reinstated into the world of the living, having long ago left their corporeal selves behind.

This was why he had drawn her to him, by tapping into the supernatural energy that flowed through the pumpkins that grew here, harnessing the power of his will to control the vines, and though the vines had taken her from that mortal coil, his love for her was also able to preserve her in death for eternity with him, here in their paradise of eternal life.

He had the power to control reality itself, but he stubbornly denied to use it for her benefit, claiming he felt horrible for killing Carol, and did not wish to take another child from its parents.

Carol understood this, and she loved Tommy with her very being, but she needed more. And she knew that Tommy was slightly power mad.

“My sweetest Carol,” he professed, “please understand that taking a living soul requires so much power that it nearly cracked the moon and scattered the stars the night you came to me.” He boasted, and paused for effect. “I also doubt you’d be able to live with yourself after taking a poor child’s mortal soul away from their poor mother.”

He eyed her, though maggots crawled in the empty socket like animated rice instead of eyeballs, which never ceased to make her smile. She never thought too hard about the fact that she probably appeared the same to him.

The moon and stars had not been in any danger that night, and he was well aware of it. He liked to exaggerate. Carol didn’t appreciate it much.

The pull of motherhood persisted like the tides, a power of nature itself, and though her longing consumed her, she resisted for as long as she could, hoping that some wayward child would seek her out.

After all, she wasn’t a killer.

Nor was she evil.

Was she?

She could no longer be sure it mattered either way now that she was dead.

Still, Tommy had taken Carol from her life, and damned her to an eternity of nothingness in his kingdom of rotted fruit, and his wormy company, which proved inadequate to long sustain happy feelings, much less love. She wanted a baby, and taking the child was the only way it was going to happen. She had to convince Tommy to help her.

There was no escape from this place. Tommy argued that she had wanted to be here, and no one should be alone, even him, and because of his loneliness, he had wrongly taken her. But she had been keen to come here, nevertheless. Though he had guilt over it, it was not so bad that it had prevented him from killing her.

After all else failed, she threatened to throw herself back to the other side, so she could just die. She knew there was a way to do it, and he knew she wasn’t bluffing.

The thought of losing Carol was too horrifying to seriously ponder. He simply would not allow it. So, reluctantly, he agreed to help her.

And then, a few days before Halloween, a young girl, no more than 10 years old, came strolling up to the fence.

Charity Crane knew the stories, but still braved the trek down to the old spooky place, and faced the Donnerly House with a challenging smirk on her rosy ten-year-old face.

She was far from brave, but she was intensely curious about Tommy and Carol. Their story held her in sway. They wanted a perfect child.

Charity’s own mother was not much company to her now that dad was gone. The woman had been drowning her sorrows in the bottle for nearly two years, and wanted little more in life other than getting plowed.

There were no friends, no hobbies for Charity. Nothing really caught her attention like the story of these ghosts in her very own neighborhood.

Charity came to the fence, willingly enough. The girl’s shining presence held sway over all things out there in the land of the living, or so it seemed. To Carol’s mind, Charity was the one she had known would come.

Together, she and Tommy watched the girl curiously poking around in the honeysuckle that draped the chain linked enclosure, trailing her fingers lightly, but with little trepidation, only interest bordering on awe.

“She must know about us!” Carol gleefully shouted

Carol was over the bloated corpse moon with delight.

“Of course, she knows about us,” he chided, “what else do you suppose brought her to the creepy old deserted house, if not the spooky tales of Tommy Rotten and his Undead Wife?”

He thought he was funny, but Sally didn’t. She felt ridiculed, mocked. If she had cheeks, they would have been red. If she had tears, they would have spilled over her cheeks in tiny waterfalls.

Carol went on, doing her best to ignore mean old Tommy’s blasé reaction. “I can feel her looking for us, Tommy! If only she could see us. Can we take her now?”

“Not now. Only on Halloween.”

“Dammit, but okay. Fair enough, Tommy.”

She twirled her way gracefully, carelessly, Tommy might have said, down the front steps, out into the pumpkin patch, over to the fence where merely

fragrant flowering vines and metal mesh – not to mention the veil between life and death, of course – lay between her and the curious child.

Charity was truly special. She was brooding and intelligent, shining with a brilliance that could be seen as a hopeful aura, and smelled a thousand times sweeter than the most fragrant flowers draped between them. At once, she knew there was a deep well of sadness inside the girl, and that was the moment their noses were an inch apart.

Carol could take this girl’s sadness and make her whole.

The time was almost right. It was nearly Halloween. This was evident in the plumping of the pumpkins. The moon had grown cheeky, as well. Indeed, it may even be in full blaze come the magic night.

Carol watched Tommy as he whispered, cricket calls in the wind, his hollow eyes reflecting nothing, showing only the nothing that was, and the worms that wriggled. She could see the transmissions from his toothless smile, the bottom jaw cracked and splintered down the right side, a delicate fissure that threatened to eventually give way, and then what?

Tommy and Sally were bound together in their postmortem fairy tale marriage, and soon they would make it a true family.

Halloween came floating around as it does every year. It was a cool, pleasant day, and it fell on a Saturday, so the kids had the run of the weekend for their special holiday. It promised to be a Halloween for the ages.

Carol and Tommy embraced in the pumpkin patch, and stared deep into each other’s souls. Unbeknownst to Carol, Tommy had held Charity in his sway from that moment she’d arrived at the fence until now. For this to work, it was necessary for Charity to be extremely suggestible, for a stubborn soul could fight them off, and it would be for nothing.

“Charity!” their voices in unison called to her. Sang to her in mellifluous tones, enchanting her thoughts with their silky vibrations prodding into the deepest space between one world and the next. “Charity, its’s time to come home.”

“Are you sure this will work, Thomas?”

He grinned lasciviously, but the reason for his mischievous demeanor remained hidden on that shining curved slab of bone, broken and sagging, cracked and moldering in a couple of places, jaw slightly askew.

“What makes you think it won’t work, Carol my sweet?” “Never mind. Just hold me.”

They embraced again on that night of mist-shrouded moonlight, through the veneer of Spanish moss-laden limbs, and spider webs dotted with tiny cocoons. Their voices in unison, blasted out from eternity and into the hallowed night.

Their light blazed through the Halloween night. It came through the house, the fence, the vines, the pumpkins, and finally through her and Tommy. Eldritch beams shone and coalesced into a bridge of light arcing across the black sky, down through the trees and out of sight.

Carol and Tommy locked bony fingers, and rode the beams together.

The bridge conveyed their spirits out of death’s palace, and into the living world, past the sign reading Sunny River Estates, the housing development where their precious child currently awaited their arrival.

In the diminutive house on Tallow Lane, Charity cowered in the corner of her bedroom, while her mother slept drunkenly in the tattered old recliner adjacent the front door, whiskey bottle and old tattered bible forgotten where they lay at her feet. She snored like an aging old hound as the vines crept into the house through a portal which had opened in the hall.

The vines crept along the walls, and slinked over to where the large woman slept. Then one of them inch-wormed its way up her nightgown, and up her ample bosom. It stopped, inches from her face, while more caught up.

Mother slowly stirred, and when she opened her mouth to yawn, the vines rushed in and filled up her lungs.

All afternoon, Charity had waited in her bedroom, knowing that something was going to happen, but unable to put it into words. She felt like she was about to die. Because she had nobody and nothing to really lean on, she felt as if she was nothing more than a ghost anyway.

And now, the monsters had come. They were here for her.

“Mama!” Charity tried to scream, but that single word croaked out maybe an inch from her sweaty face and died. She saw the vines, and two lumbering skeletons behind them, closely followed by eerily glowing pumpkins, as they all poured forth from the tunnel in her wall.

The vines enveloped her.

Charity fought and tore at the ropy attackers, but her strength was inadequate to the task. She weakened easily, and she was easily subdued.

She felt a sudden loosening, as if she had become unhinged and had fallen out of gravity’s hold, and into the air above her. She had screwed her fists into her eyes to shield her from this horror show, but she now quickly opened them, and wildly surveyed the scene. She screamed in horror as

Tommy and Carol Rotten materialized out of the opening in the wall in front of her.

Though Charity had initiated the contact with them, she had not really believed the Rottens were real, or that they could physically harm her or her mom.

But they had come for her, and they meant to kill her.

She had known her situation was about to get infinitely worse, and a gasp of terror and perhaps a bit of joy intermingled and caught in her throat, as the pumpkin vines knotted around her wrists and ankles, looped around her waist. Then, the vines gracefully lifted Charity into the hole in the wall with them. The tunnel through the wall impossibly stretched on and on, though the hallway should have been inches away, just on the other side of it.

She screamed as loud as she could, but her cries were cut short by the coiling vines, as they rushed in.

The two skeletal ghouls reached out of the darkness and grabbed Charity tightly and immediately the vines retreated back, releasing her to their masters and her new parents, the Rottens, to whom cruel fate had bequeathed her immortal soul.

Charity was transported then to her new life with the Rottens. She was reminded of a film, the name of which floated just out of reach. It was of little consequence, though. No part of her past life mattered any longer, now that she was dead.

Wanting only to curl up into a ball and cry, Charity was instead gathered into Carol’s dead, loving arms and held close to that awful, fleshless breastbone, and that new mother of hers hummed a sweet, lovely tune to her.

Though she had no ear to hear it, she did hear, and the wordless melody quieted her turbulent soul, just enough to ease her anxiety, if only for a fleeting time.

As she faded into unconsciousness, one thought came through with perfect clarity, just before she slept. She would bide her time, but one day she would have her revenge on the Rottens.

Boo-graphy: Adam Light writes stories both weird and horrifying. Most of his previous short fiction is now collected in Dreams for the Dying, published by Corpus Press in 2021. He is currently working on more.

Tommy Rotten: A Halloween Tale — Tommy Rotten lies immersed in a billowing blanket of fog, wringing his cold hands in elated anticipation. He is optimistic that this year someone will finally come. He fantasizes about the potential candidates that will come tromping through the neighborhood, roaming the night in their delightfully hideous homages to the serial killers and demons and ghouls – normally inhabitants of their nightmares – but tonight, Halloween, brings them endless delight.

Dreams for the Dying — Bad dreams don’t always evaporate in the light of day.

Some refuse to fade, forever haunting dark corners of consciousness:

The dread of an approaching headlight on a deserted road . . .
Swirling black clouds claiming the sky, bringing death and madness . . .
The cabin of a trucker’s rig, where a waitress lies bound and gagged . . .
A cursed soul in a moonlit pumpkin patch, desperate and lonely . . .

These are songs for the damned, poisons for the cure, and Dreams for the Dying.

For years, Adam Light has frightened and delighted readers around the world with his stories of horror and the bizarre. Fully revised to best represent the author’s original vision, these fearsome tales of the macabre are finally collected under a single cover for the first time.


Meghan: Hi, Mark! Welcome back and thank you for stopping by today. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Mark: Seeing how imaginative people are with costumes. I’m not talking about the shop bought ones. It’s those that’ve been homemade always catch my eye. You know, those that have been stitched together with love and attention.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Mark: It will always be carving pumpkins. It’s fun getting messy!

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

Mark: For me, it’s a good excuse to watch crappy horror movies. Sure, no matter the time of year we can do that, but Halloween comes along and all the streaming channels show many I’ve never seen before. So that’s always great.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Mark: Haha! Superstitions are an absolute waste of brainpower. I am in no way superstitious. Even as a kid, while my friend avoided stepping on cracks or walking under ladders, or even shriek when spotting a black cat, I’d happily run under the ladder and stroke the cat while standing on all the cracks.

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

Mark: Pinhead from Clive Barker’s The Hellbound Heart was always a favourite of mine, especially once the Hellraiser movies reinforced the mythos. Such a great premise too, and don’t get me started on Lemarchand’s puzzle box and the wonderful lament configuration.

Having said that, there is a close second and he’s from the movie, Sinister. The soundtrack composer, Christopher Young, did a fine job in hammering home how sinister the antagonist was. Bughuul is so damned menacing.

Those two villains, a hell priest and a pagan deity, would make an awesome duo. I’d pay to see, or read, that.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Mark: Well, you have me here. I have no idea. The horror that I write leans towards the supernatural rather than humankind’s real-life horrors.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Mark: Nothing scares me. Only heights, but that has nothing to do with Halloween. How about cats, though? Can I talk about cats?

I live in Hastings, East Sussex, England, that’s famous for its roots in history: the 1066 Battle of Hastings is the big one. Research for my novella, Hell Cat of the Holt, led me to learn that in the 19th century, two mummified cats were discovered in the chimney of the Stag Inn while under restoration.

These cats were apparently the familiars of a local 17th century witch. Friendlier than most witches of that time, Hannah Clarke was seen to help prevent the Spanish Armada reaching Hastings, often using her powers for the town’s protection. For whatever reasons, she moved on yet her familiars remained. Until the Great Plague hit.

Cats, rather than rats, were commonly assumed to be plague carriers and having been owned by a witch, this pair of animals were the first to succumb to accusations. For fear of any bad omen to befall the people by killing the cats, a decision was made to wall them in at the pub which led to their mummification.

This all was supposed to have happened. I swear the owners of the Stag Inn have always played on that story, and it’s just good marketing so they can sell more beer.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Mark: Again, because my horror doesn’t fall under the human hand category, I don’t believe I can name any serial killer and their kill numbers. Real life horror doesn’t fascinate me. I’m in it for the demons, devils, and spirits… The stuff that Halloween is truly made off!

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

Mark: I remember watching Steven Spielberg’s Poltergeist at an early age and was absolutely mesmerised. The children, the parents, the haunting itself. Everything from that movie held me in awe.

As for a book? Just into my teens, I nabbed a novel from my dad’s horror shelf. It was undoubtedly the book that kicked my love for horror into overdrive: James Herbert’s fantastic The Magic Cottage.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Mark: I once read a book by Mark Morris. I think it was Toady, though I may be wrong. There was a scene of child abuse. That kind of shit unsettles me. It disgusts me. This is the horror I detest, in the knowledge that it actually happens in this world. Humans and their actions are the real horror, and it’s because of that I side-step it to delve into the darkness beyond our four walls of reality. Give me ghouls and ghosts any day.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Mark: I’m still waiting…

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume? (This could be from when you were a child or after you became an adult. Or maybe something you never dressed as but wish you had.)

Mark: I once made a Hellboy costume. I trawled charity shops for the perfect trench coat, and made the massive hand from foam out of our old sofa. I fashioned stubby horns and glued them onto a bald cap, and laboriously attached sections of a long black wig to it. All this took many, many hours on my days off work on approach to the big day. I even grew the appropriate facial hair and dyed it. Lots of spray paint and face paint later, I did it. I received a lot of attention that night.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Mark: Oh, it will always be Danny Elfman’s “This is Halloween” from the movie Nightmare Before Christmas.

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

Mark: Wow. That’s a question. I haven’t touched candy in years… Decades in fact! I used to love Drumsticks though, and absolutely hated anything liquorish.

Meghan: This has been great, Mark. As always. Before you go, what is your one go-to Halloween movie?

Mark: I will always rank Halloween 3: Season of the Witch as my favourite. I mean, seriously, that haunting theme tune and those masks! Love it.

Mark Cassell lives on the south-east coast of the United Kingdom with his wife and plenty of animals. His jobs have included baker, lab technician, driving instructor, actor, and was once a spotlight operator for an Elvis impersonator. As the author of the best-selling Shadow Fabric mythos, he not only writes dark fantasy horror but also explores steampunk and sci-fi.

He has seen over fifty stories published in anthologies and zines, and remains humbled in the knowledge that his work shares pages with many of his literary heroes. The 2021 release of the short story collection SIX! from Red Cape Publishing shines a light on just how weird Mark can get. More can be found at his website.

From Mark Cassell, author of the Shadow Fabric mythos, comes SIX! Featuring a variety of dark tales, from the sinister to the outright terrifying, this unique collection is a must for horror readers everywhere. Includes the stories Skin, All in the Eyes, In Loving Memory, The Space Between Spaces, On Set With North, and Don’t Swear in Mum’s House.

Monster Double Feature: River of Nine Tails & Reanimation Channel
From the author of the Shadow Fabric mythos comes Monster Double Feature, a 78-page chapbook featuring two stories – a duo of abominations.

A British traveller desperate to escape his past finds himself at the heart of a Vietnamese legend, and learns why the Mekong Delta is known as ‘River of Nine Tails’ (originally published in In Darkness, Delight: Creatures of the Night anthology by Corpus Press, 2019).

And a regular parcel collection from a neighbour becomes a descent into terror through the online game, ‘Reanimation Channel’, (originally published in The Black Room Manuscripts, Vol. 4 anthology by The Sinister Horror Company, 2018).