GUEST INTERVIEW: Jeff Parsons Interviews ME

It’s not often that I get sent a handful of questions, but each time, it is super exciting to take part. This year, along with an author interview and guest post (a true story), Jeff decided that he wanted to send over a set of questions for ME. And what a great set of questions it was. So, without further ado…

Jeff: What inspired you to create your blog?

Me: I wanted a place that was mine where I could talk books. At the beginning of The Gal in the Blue Mask, which was the blog before Meghan’s House of Books, Goodreads was a rather dramatic place to hang out. Authors and bloggers/reviewers were bickering and both sides were being rather unpleasant to the other, doing things I considered very wrong. I wanted a safe place, a happy place, where I made the rules and everyone was welcome.

In 2019, after a couple of years of just feeling lost when it came to blogging, I decided to rebrand myself as Meghan’s House of Books. It wasn’t that I didn’t love The Gal anymore – I do, and it still exists, for always – but I just felt like I had grown out of it. And so the front doors of “my house” were opened…

Jeff: How do you get your blog noticed? Marketing, blog-to-blog outreach, word of mouth?

Meghan: To be honest, it’s mostly word of mouth. I don’t really fit in with the other bloggers, or so it seems. I’ve tried to make friends with fellow book bloggers, even ones that like the same kinds of books I do, and I’ve done all the stuff they say to do – comment, like, follow – but I’ve never really clicked with most of them. Never really been given the chance. Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing…

Jeff: What are some interesting things you’ve learned from talking with authors?


  • They’re all just normal people.
  • They don’t always know what they are doing.
  • The anxiety is real with them as well. (They don’t often see themselves as we do, and question whether they are any good at all.)

Jeff: How do you respond to people who say horror is for disturbed minds?

Meghan: I ask them if they’ve actually read a book in the genre and often suggest a few that they should read because, to me, horror is a way to handle the horrific of the world, a way for us to better understand the “disturbed minds” out there. Not all horror is gore for gore’s sake, which I know turns a lot of people off, or extreme. A lot of horror is psychological or things that can actually happen. Those things say with you long after you close the cover of the book or the credits finish rolling.

Jeff: Why do some people dislike Halloween? Are they afraid of something?

Meghan: There’s a reason that one of my questions in this year’s interview was why Halloween was their favorite (or second favorite) holiday. It’s one of my top two and I wanted to see if people felt the same way about it as I do. To me, Halloween is a lifestyle, and there are horror things up in my home office year round. I’m a spooky girl all year, until November 1st when I become all Christmas all day, and around January 10th I go right back to being a spooky girl. I think people dislike Halloween because they were brought up being told to not like it or that it is evil or they just don’t understand it. Halloween is a time when you get to be a little different, when you get to dress up and pretend you are not the same boring person you are every other day, when you get to enjoy being scared and the things that go bump in the night. “Are they afraid of something?” That’s a great question. Maybe they are afraid of the things that COULD be in the dark. Or maybe they’re just afraid of being judged for liking something that usually the “nerds” are the ones enjoying or because they think it’s kids’ stuff. Maybe they’re afraid to let go and enjoy themselves. And, as I said above, maybe they just don’t understand it.

Jeff: What if Halloween represented a dark side of life that we’ve repressed over the years? What do you think would be scary if we fell back into believing our older superstitions?

Meghan: I’ve never really found Halloween or superstitions scary. Old wives’ tales are often something that has worked over time and handed down through generations (i.e. chicken soup curing a cold). Some are based on religious beliefs (i.e. Friday the 13th and not walking under a ladder). Some were used to scare children into behaving themselves, and they had to have worked or they wouldn’t have stuck.

I grew up in a very religious household, and am still religious. Sometimes I think that we SHOULD fall back into believing our old superstitions. Let’s take Krampus for an example. Kids used to behave because they were truly afraid of being on that bad list. They believed (and maybe it was based on a true story at some point in time) that Santa would send Krampus to get them if they misbehaved. And there are lots of Christmas stories like that – Gryla, the mother of the Yule Lads, who kidnaps, cooks, and eats children; Pere Fouettard, who is St Nicholas’ servant, with the sole job of dispensing punishment to bad children on St Nicholas Day; Perchta, who rewards and punishes during the 12 days of Christmas, best known for ripping out the internal organs and replacing them with trash; and, of course, the Yule Cat, who can apparently smell laziness on a child, who are then sacrificed to him.

Jeff: What do you think Halloween will be like 100 years from now?

Meghan: Less fun? Everything is so politically charged these days, and people are so offended/triggered that the fun is being drained from things like Halloween. We’re told that we shouldn’t like things because of this or reason or this reason. Those of us who have heard this our whole lives are fighting back, but in 100 years, who will be around to defend the weird and wonderful that we love all year round?

Jeff: What can writers do to improve their stories?

Meghan: Since I am an editor, one with over 20 years experience that includes working for two of the big five, I’m going to say that the best way they can improve their stories is to hire a well-read editor and listen to what they have to say. Now I know there are some people that think they don’t need an editor, that say it is an expense they can ignore, especially if they are a self published author, but a good editor is really worth their weight in gold.

I’ve heard horror stories – trust me – which is why I say to talk to the person before you decide to hire them. Let them tell you what they can do for you, let them tell you about their education, their training, and what they have edited so far. (You can even ask to talk to one or two of the authors that they have worked with.) Get to know the person and decide if the two of you would make a good team or not – and I say team because that is basically what the two of you will be, especially if you are writing a trilogy or series, as you’ll want to have the same eyes looking at it each time to ensure consistency and continuity.

I will tell you that a good editor WILL discuss things with you, WILL explain why changes are necessary. YOU will learn from them and THEY will learn from you. It will be a true partnership, but the story will ALWAYS be yours. They will help to make your story better all while retaining your voice. They will never change things (other than misspellings and punctuation) without talking to you first. And they will be available to talk to you at least once during the project. You have to be able to trust them because, in essence, you are trusting them with your baby, so don’t ignore those little things that make you question.

If you simply cannot afford an editor, which is understandable, you should (at the very least) get a good BETA reader. (Note: Some editors do provide a BETA read for a cheaper price, where they will give you an honest opinion of the story in front of them and point out any major flaws with the story.) It doesn’t necessarily have to be an editor, but it should be a well-read person who you can trust to be completely honest with you and invested in your success. Honesty is the only way you are going to learn and your story is going to get better. (And I suggest that you sit down with their notes with an open mind because they really are just trying to help you.)

[Here’s my chance to plug me for a change: Any author that mentions this interview gets 20% off their first edit project with MeghanH Editing.]

Jeff: What are some of the best story hooks you’ve ever read?

Meghan: I am drawn to horror that is set during either Halloween or Christmas, and I absolutely love stories where the setting is a carnival/circus or something haunted (homes, asylums, hospitals). (There should be more carnival/circus horror, people!!) At the same time, I am often truly put off if there is a vampire, werewolf, or zombie involved, which saddens me, especially with vampires and werewolves, because those were the things I loved as a kid. They have just become so… boring… for me, but there are times I give those a try, hoping for something different, hoping for something to grab my attention and pull me in like they did when I was younger.

You’re looking for specifics here, though, so let me pull out a few that have stayed on my favorites list over time.

I love when a stranger comes back to get revenge years later, causing the main character to suffer in the same way that they once tormented the stranger. Even better if there’s been enough time between the two events for the main character to have forgotten or almost forgotten what had happened. A good example of this would be Desolation by Kristopher Rufty. Even better because his story is told from both sides.

I also love watching the main character slowly go insane. That’s a fear I think a lot of people have in life, that they will slowly lose their mind, and it’s interesting to see when done well – and it sicks with you. A good example of this is Six Dead Spots by Gregor Xane.

I know I said that I am bored with werewolves, but maybe it’s because I’m looking for something different. A few years ago I read one by Jonathan Janz (Wolf Land) where the victims became werewolves themselves.

I find stalker stories interesting. I read one not too long ago where a man puts a spell on the woman he loves, and after she loses her memory, pretends to be her lover. As the story goes on, she slowly starts finding out more and more about the man and what he would do to keep the woman of his dreams while she also starts… changing. I was hooked. (The book in question was Rose by Rami Ungar.)

I’ll tell you right now – if you put Krampus or any of his ilk in a story, you’ll have me from page one. I was just “surprised” by a short story in The Best of Indie Horror: Christmas Edition (published by KJK Publishing, edited by Kevin J Kennedy) – I can’t tell you which one because I don’t want to spoil the surprise for you, but I would definitely suggest picking that anthology up (I’ll be reviewing it shortly).

Along the same path, and even though it’s not necessarily horror – well… maybe… possibly… – if you put any holiday character into a book and give them a backstory not expected (for example, the Claus series by Tony Bertauski), you’ll have a hard time not catching my attention.

I guess, you could say, that it’s the psychological horror that really gets me – the things that could actually happen to someone, taken to that next level, the things that stay with you long after you have finished reading the story, that are the hooks I like best.

Jeff: What’s more important to you – characters or plot?

Meghan: Both? You sort of need both to make a gripping story, but I guess if I HAVE to chose one or the other, I’ll say that characters are the most important. Without characters, the plot won’t matter at all. And if the characters we are supposed to love are dreadful, then we really won’t care what happens to them, no matter how good the plot is.

Jeff: What got you interested in horror?

Meghan: My father. He was always reading or watching something interesting. Usually something I wasn’t supposed to be reading or watching. He told me one time that horror was a good scary because I can be scared but not hurt by the things that happen in books and movies.

My first “horror” movie was Jaws. I’ve told this story a billion times, but what’s one more time? We were at my mom and dad’s best friend’s house. The husband and the oldest son (who I had a crush on at a very young age) were watching the movie, and though my mother told me that I would probably not like it, I decided to watch it with them anyway. I honestly can’t tell you much about the movie, nothing beyond the shark and how scared I was, and I have never attempted the movie again. It didn’t help that the same oldest son told me that the light in the deep end of the pool was Jaw’s eyeball. Seriously. His EYEBALL. It took me a good year before I would set foot inot that pool again. One day, there was some work being done on the pool and my dad pointed at the hole and said, “See? It can’t be Jaw’s eyeball. There’s no body.” Now, up until that point, and quite a few more points over the years, I thought my dad was the smartest man on the planet. At that moment, though, I seriously questioned how smart he was. It could still be Jaw’s eyeball without his body there. And sometimes, in the dark, out of the corner of my eye, I swear I see that big eyeball winking at me…

Jeff: What stories can be written in horror that can’t be expressed in other genres?

Meghan: That’s a very good question. I honestly believe that only horror can really go into the depth of someone’s soul, only horror can really explore our true fears. Horror is that one step further, that one step that other genres are afraid to take, with characters that are not afraid to take themselves to that next level, that aren’t afraid to let themselves be depraved or evil, and on the other side, aren’t afraid to feel that depravity and that evil to cone out fine, but often changed, on the other side. I think that all stories in other genres have the potential of being horror, but only horror allows that exploration, only horror creates the opportunity feel that fear (in safety), and really, it’s only horror that gets away with all of the above because it is expected and accepted.

If you think about it, a good romance can lead to a horrific murder spree if we find out that the beautiful woman he fell in love with doesn’t even know he exists. A good science fiction can become horrific if, rather than the people on the spaceship becoming friends with the new alien life they have just encountered, they choose to repeat atrocities from the past and wipe those beings and their planet from space. The cozy mystery can lead to a horrific story if the witty chef who solves crimes in her spare time ends up being the murderer and takes her killing fetish to the extreme, all while setting innocent people up for the murders that she is committing. A fantasy needs to just up it’s Brothers Grimm-anti to cross the line into horror.

Jeff: The lines between horror and other genres often become blurred. What do you think real horror is?

Meghan: This is the one question that I truly struggled to answer, but knowing how annoyed I get when someone doesn’t answer all of the questions in an interview I worked hard to put together, there was no way I was going to do that to you.

Horror is very hard to define because of those blurred lines and each person you ask is going to have a different answer as horror means something different to each individual. Why? Because we all fear different things.

I personally think real horror challenges our belief of what is good and what is evil. Therefore, I think the horror genre is the epitome of that uncertainty. And many of its themes are things that are considered socially unacceptable. As I’ve said elsewhere in this interview, horror gives us a chance to figure things out, to analyze, to really look in-depth at the things that scare us and see it in a different light, to see the wizard behind the curtain.

Jeff: Considering the awful truth of what can happen in this world, how far do you think a horror writer can go to describe the truth before it’s considered unacceptable?

Meghan: I think that as long as it is in some way believable, that if some part of it *could* happen, there will always be someone (or a group of someones) who will accept it no matter how far the author takes it. I think there should be horror that fits in with the horrors of the world because those stories will help us to better understand it. Authors just need to keep in mind that not everyone sees the same horror in things, not everyone has the same story. Current things, full of all kinds of emotion, where the true facts are not always known, are harder for people to stomach than, say, something that happened in the past. Your “horror” may not be my “horror.” We saw that when we look back at WWII. People who went through the events, who were in countries where the events took place, understood the atrocities on a completely different level than those who did not. The war itself was hard on everyone, and a lot of people lost their lives, but it wasn’t until after the war ended – years after the war ended – that the true evil and depravity was shown to life. It wasn’t something that you saw on the news, it wasn’t something that was happening to your neighbor or your family (at least for a lot of people), and even when it was, people did know know what was *really* happening at the other end of a train. People were conditioned to believe that what they were doing was right, and some truly believed that one people were lower than another. Some people did things because they had no choice, or they had to make the decision to do what they had in order to save their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Other people believe it could not have possibly happened because how could we do something like that to our fellow man?

Jeff: What do you think most future horror stories will evolve into? More towards “I’m all alone” or a cosmic-level dread?

Meghan: We’ve found out, most of us, during this global pandemic, that being “all alone” is actually quite nice and easily sustainable. We’ve found out, most of us, that we don’t need other people physically in our lives, and with the options to have things, including groceries and food, delivered to your home, there’s a good few of us that would love living like that the rest of our lives, only having to venture out if we need to. We all have friends that live all over the world, friends we can talk to every day, friends we can see every day. Hell, we’ve even had holidays across the world while sitting in each other’s living rooms. Being “all alone” just isn’t scary anymore.

I think the “new scary” is definitely cosmic horror. Now we’re venturing into things that before we THOUGHT could NEVER happen. (But then we also thought that a global pandemic could never happen. Also: locusts in Africa, devastating fires in both Australia and California, murder hornets, ebola. So maybe a giant octopus creature *could* come from the ocean depths. I mean, it *could*… right?) Cosmic horror makes readers uncomfortable (in a good way), plunges common fears and anxieties into the minds o readers, and focuses on the mysterious and the unfathomable, rather than violence and bloodshed. It makes us realize that, in the great scheme of things, we’re really not very important after all. Maybe that’s the scariest thing of all.

In addition to his two short story books, The Captivating Flames of Madness and Algorithm of Nightmares, Jeff Parsons is published in The Horror Zine, The Horror Zine’s Book of Ghost Stories, Aphelion Webzine, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 4, Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine, Chilling Ghost Short Stories, Dystopia Utopia Short Stories, Wax & Wane: A Coven of Witch Tales, Thinking Through Our Fingers, The Moving Finger Writes, Golden Prose & Poetry, Our Dance With Words, The Voices Within, Fireburst: The Inner Circle Writers’ Group, Second Flash Fiction Anthology 2018, SNM Horror Magazine, and Bonded by Blood IV/ V.

The Captivating Flames of Madness
This book’s title comes from the reality that – like a moth to the flame – we’re all just one event, mishap, or decision away from things that could change our lives forever.

What would you do if fate led you astray into a grim world where you encountered vengeful ghosts, homicidal maniacs, ancient gods, apocalyptic nightmares, dark magic, deadly space aliens, and more?

If you dare, why not find out?

Read for yourself the twenty-two gloriously provocative tales that dwell within this book – but be warned, some of my dear readers have experienced lasting nightmares…

SHORT STORY: The Interview by Phil Sloman

This is absolutely amazing and I am SO excited about getting to share this with you today. When Phil said he wanted to do the interview this year, but wanted to do it different, I never, in my wildest dreams, could have expected this. After reading it, I had to go out and share it with my mother (my best friend), who I think enjoyed it a little more than I did.

The Interview

He pulled up outside the house and put the car into park. His face was bathed with a dull glow as he turned on his phone. He flicked through a couple of screens, eventually finding the address he was after. The last thing he wanted to do was knock on the door of a random stranger and then stumble through why he was in the neighbourhood so late at night.

It had been a long drive, far longer than he had intended with traffic jams and a blown tire to contend with, but he was here now and that was all that mattered. He’d phoned ahead just to make sure, almost hoping that the answer would be “Don’t worry, grab a motel room and we can do it in the morning,” but she had seemed so enthusiastic, and he wasn’t one to disappoint. It was that eagerness to please which had brought him here in the first place. Normally these things would have been done online or by phone but he’d casually dropped in that he had family not too far away and the suggestion they do this face to face had been slipped in ever so subtly and in a way in which he couldn’t really say no.

Thirty minutes, he told himself, or maybe an hour tops and then he could be on the road to go find somewhere to get his head down for the night. He flipped his phone off and tossed it into the glove box without even thinking and made his way towards the front door.

A lot of effort had gone into decorating the house, the usual Halloween paraphernalia put out ahead of the weekend’s celebrations. Tomorrow the streets would be crawling with goblins and ghouls, witches and warlocks, all carrying plastic pumpkins filled to the brim with candy and treats. It was his favourite part of Halloween watching the children all heading out and having so much fun. Tonight, though, was more subdued. The calm before the storm. Fake cobwebs hung from Styrofoam gravestones, with skeletal hands emerging from the ground among a whole crop of carved pumpkins each filled with flickering lights. He smiled as he noticed the Satan Stop Here sign and imagined just what might happen if that particular red suited man were to turn up. At least he would have no problem working out who was naughty or nice.

He pressed the doorbell and waited. A black and white sign reading “Home Sweet Haunted Home” hung to the side of the door. He was almost too distracted by it to notice as the door swung open.

“Phil!” There was an excitement to the greeting.

“Um, hi, yeah,” he said, bumbling his words. “So sorry that I’m late, Meghan, you know, what with the traffic and the flat and everything. I mean, is it still okay? What time is it anyway? Almost midnight?”

Meghan looked up at him and smiled. One of those reassuring ones which makes you feel as if the world will all be just hunky-dory if you simply went with it.

“Of course it’s fine. You’ve come all this way and I wouldn’t want you to have a wasted journey now, would I. So why don’t you come right on in. We can settle down over a nice iced tea and get down to business. Doesn’t that sound great?”

“Yes, I guess it does.” Except he knew he’d only end up sipping at the drink out of politeness, counting the seconds until he could get his head down for some shut eye.

“Wonderful. Now do follow me. Please.”

He did as he was instructed, walking closely behind his hostess towards the inner sanctum of Chateau Hyden.

“You’ve got a lovely place here,” he said turning left and then right as they weaved through a maze of rooms. He was about to take another left when something skittered across his feet.

“Oh, jeez, what the hell was that?”

Meghan turned to face him. “That was Mia.”


“My cat. You might get to meet her later. She’s adorable but she does bring me in all kinds of strays. You do like cats, don’t you? I know some folks can get a bit superstitious around them.”

“Cats? Me. Nah, love them. We’ve got a couple of them back home. Only thing I’m really superstitious about is magpies. You know, where you have to salute them if you see one on their own. Otherwise bad shit will happen.”

He laughed, a little less convincingly than he would have liked.

“Oh, bad stuff can happen anyway, magpies or not,” said Meghan, that thousand-watt smile beaming brightly yet seeming ever so less reassuring now.

“Um, yeah, I guess you’re right.” He rubbed the back of his neck, not quite sure where to look.

Meghan simply continued smiling, the pair of them standing in silence, the sound of a carriage clock ticking away in the distance. For a second he thought he could hear something else too. Something muffled. Almost as if someone were shouting from the bottom of a well or a pond. Possible coming from his left. He turned, still listening, seeing a door with a lock, a large black key poking from the keyhole…the sound was definitely coming from the room beyond…he strained to hear…his hand resting on the doorhandle…

“Through here,” said Meghan.

“I’m sorry?”

“We’re through here,” she repeated, taking his arm and guiding him to follow her. Even so, he couldn’t resist one last look back at the door.

The room she led him into was spacious with bookshelves running from floor to ceiling. In the middle of the room was a coffee table with two wicker chairs either side. A tray with a large crystal jug and two tall slim jims, each filled with iced tea, had been placed on the table. Large potted plants added a touch of the exotic to the room.

“Please, do sit.” Meghan pointed to the furthest chair. “Then we can begin.”

He ambled to the chair, pausing to look at the bookshelves. There were so many books; it was wonderful. And here, right here, was the horror section in all its glory. There were the Campbells, Kings, Barkers, Jacksons, and Poes. Oh Poe. He hadn’t realised it was horror when he’d first read those abridged versions in his 1,000 Page Story Book for Children all those years back. How old must he have been? Eight? Nine? He couldn’t really remember. What he did recall was the fascination and atmosphere that those tales by Poe evoked in him. It would be almost a full decade before he properly delved into horror thereafter through Skeleton Crew and the Books of Blood. And here were some of the newer authors. Mauro. Sharma. Linwood Grant. Everington. West. Gardner. Jones. He paused as he recognised some particular books among the works.

“Nice to see a few of my pieces have made it to your shelves.”

“Of course.” That smile again. “We’ve always got a special place for Phil Sloman here. Shall we?”

The chair creaked as he sat down. He made a note to himself to cut down on the late-night cheese binges. Meghan sat opposite and pushed the tray towards him.

“Please, help yourself.”

“Thanks.” He grabbed a glass and took a sip. The taste wasn’t unpleasant but there was a hint of something he couldn’t quite place. “It’s good,” he said, manners kicking in.

“Thank you. My mother made it.”

“Well, do pass on my thanks to her.”

“Oh, I’m sure you’ll be able to do that yourself. In time.”

Time. He glanced at his watch. It was still the right side of midnight but only just. How long before he could be out of here? Before he could be on the road again.

“So, what did you want to know?” he said, eager to proceed.


“The interview. That’s why I’m here, right?”

“Oh, yes, sure. The interview.”

“And?” He was being snippy. He didn’t mean to be; the long drive, the late hour, but he just wished they could start.

“Right,” said Meghan, rising above his ire. “Let me see. Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?”

“Wow, right in with the big questions. No punches held.”

“I like to be direct.”

“That’s good. I like that. Um, so to your question. I don’t really keep track of unsolved murders. You might think that a bit bizarre given some of my work. Becoming David and The Man Who Fed the Foxes being good examples without giving too much away.” He winked at her then regretted it immediately. He could be such an idiot at times. “But,” he said, recovering himself, “there’s that important divide for me between real life and fiction. You know what I mean?”


“I mean there’s every likelihood that there’s a dead body somewhere in this street and we wouldn’t know about it.”

Meghan laughed.

“Well, that would certainly be exciting, wouldn’t it!”

“I guess it would.” He took another sip of his drink. “Are you going to take any notes?”

“No, it’s fine. I have a great memory. You just keep on talking.”

“Sure. Well, I guess that was it really.” God, why hadn’t he done this by email. At least then he could have taken the time with his answers. “What’s next?”

Meghan leaned forward in her chair, her eyes widening almost with glee as she popped her next question. “Tell me, who’s your favourite serial killer and why?”

“Favourite serial killer? Hmmm, well I guess that’s a bit like the unsolved murders. A bit too real for me. I mean, Dahmer was someone who intrigued me at the time, as I guess he did for most of us, but there’s that worry for me of celebrity status for something so heinous. It’s almost as if we remember the killer and not the victims. It’s weird because I’m happy to write about that stuff as fiction but the real life stuff…” He pulled a face.

“I know what you mean.”

“And it’s always the people you least expect. Those people who come across as so nice, the next-door neighbour who everyone always had time for, who would go out of their way to get the drinks in.”

“Well, everyone likes a nice drink. How’s the iced tea?”

“It’s good.” He took another sip, then placed the glass on the tray. “Are you having any?”

“In a bit. Now, are you ready for the next question.”

He nodded, tugging at his collar as he did so.

“So, which urban legend scares you?”

“Urban legend. Let me think.” His fingers worked at the top button of his shirt. Air, he needed some air. “Urban legend…urban legend.”

“Are you okay?” There was concern in her voice.

“Yes, it’s just getting a little warm in here.”

“Is it? I hadn’t noticed. So, you were saying?”

“Right, legends. Urban legends. Umm, I guess probably that fear Poe had. You know the one where you’re buried alive. So not really an urban legend. Apparently it happened lots back then. You know folks trapped in their coffins, still breathing, somehow, with no one to hear them. Muffled voices shouting…from…the…grave.”

He could feel the blood drain from his face even as he said the words. Dots joining up slowly in a brain which was barely ticking over.

“Could you open a window?”

“In a bit. More iced tea, perhaps?”


He went to reach for his glass. Something so simple. All he needed to do was stretch out his arm and pick up the glass. Except he couldn’t. His arm hung limply by his side.

“Is everything okay?”

“Ye..” He tried to form the word. Just three letters. “Ye..” His tongue felt fat in his mouth, his jaw wouldn’t move. “Y…” He watched as Meghan rose from her seat, coming round to check on him, to give him help. Except she wasn’t. He saw the hand rushing open-palmed towards his face. He knew the contact must have happened except where there should have been a sharp pain, residual tingling, there was nothing.

“Mom, come here. He’s ready.”

Slowly his vision faded, the room becoming hazy, the world around him softening. He was aware of someone else entering the room, a woman, muffled voices talking then hands under his arms, being dragged from his chair. His feet skittered across the hardwood floor. Was that Mia playing around his ankles, dashing back and forth under his legs? He couldn’t tell. And then they were somewhere else. The corridor? That hum of voices. A door opening. The voices louder now. Familiar voices. Ones he had heard speak at conventions on panels, and some, the more famous ones, on television and radio.

“Meghan, honey, I think he’s still awake.”

“It doesn’t matter. He shouldn’t feel a thing. Probably.”

He opened his eyes. The first sensation was that he was underwater. The world blurred around him. Except there were some things he could make out. Shelves filled with large jars. The types you had in high school science labs, usually with some dead rat or alien looking creature suspended in formaldehyde.

“Oh, look, he’s finally awake.”

“About time. Now we know why they call him Slow-man!”

“Nice one, Ramsey.”

“My pleasure, Steve.”

“Who, who’s there?” he said, trying to keep the quiver from his voice. Except something was different. Almost as if he was speaking through melted marshmallow.

“Shut up, all of you. I think I can hear her coming.”

“Yes, Clive. Whatever you say, Clive. I mean what is she going to do that she hasn’t done already?”

“Yes, what sights might she have to show us?”

“Ah, fuck you, guys!”

Light flooded the room.

“Okay, what’s going on in here? I told you all before to keep the noise down. The neighbours have been complaining.”

“Yes, Meghan.”

“Sorry, Meghan.”

“Won’t happen again, Meghan.”

“Good. Glad to hear it.” He heard footsteps crossing the room. Then she was there. Her face in front of his. She tapped the glass of the jar, looking at the disembodied head.

“See, I told you we had a special place here for Phil Sloman. Plenty of time for questions. And I do have so many questions. In the meantime, welcome to Meghan’s Haunted House of Books. I hope you enjoy your stay.”

The End

Phil Sloman is a writer of dark psychological fiction. His first story was published in 2014 and he has been writing ever since. In 2017 Phil was shortlisted for British Fantasy Award Best Newcomer for his novella Becoming David, and was part of Imposter Syndrome from Dark Minds Press which was nominated for British Fantasy Award Best Anthology in 2018, and edited the 2020 British Fantasy Award nominated The Woods anthology. Phil regularly appears on several reviewers’ Best of Year lists.

Author website
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Becoming David
Richard leads a simple, uncomplicated life in the suburbs of London where anonymity is a virtue. His life has a routine. His cleaner visits twice a week. He works out in his basement, where he occasionally he kills people. Everything is as Richard wants it until David enters his life. What happens next changes his existence in its entirety and the lives of those around him. Is he able to trust anything to be true? And will he be able to escape David or will David take over Richard’s life completely?