Meghan: Hi Ben! Welcome to Meghan’s (Haunted) House of Horrors. What is your favorite part of Halloween?
Ben: The weather and the colors of Autumn. I love that crisp cinnamon smell in the air. Most of my fiction is written during the winter. I love taking walks in the woods and just taking it all in. I always looked forward to visiting my relatives in Tennessee. My uncle would take me for walks into the hollow behind his house. My imagination was operating on all 8 cylinders then, and it does now. I was able to bring that same hollow into my latest horror novella, Hollow Heart. Of course, my uncle called it a “holler.”
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?
Ben: It was handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters but, sadly, that’s come to an end. Now it’s re-reading my favorite horror novels. Also, I love dressing up as one of my favorite horror creatures. I plan to dress up as The Hell Priest this year, and I have a friend who does special effects. I can’t wait to see what he’s capable of. Hopefully, a few buddies of mine and I can get together and read short horror stories to one another.
Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?
Ben: Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. As a child, we could dress up and go to school as our favorite monsters. I always tried to scare the hell out of my classmates. You can’t do that on any other holiday or regular day, for that matter. It’s also a time of renewal—out with the old, in with the new.
Meghan: What are you superstitious about?
Ben: Talking about fiction I’m currently writing. That’s the only thing. I’m sure this is disappointing. LOL
Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?
Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?
Ben: The murders of Jack the Ripper. Why? Because we’ll never, ever, ever, know who committed those murders. It’s left up to the imagination. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I think Alan Moore was on to something with his amazing graphic novel, From Hell. Big fan of Alan Moore.
Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?
Ben: I don’t believe in the supernatural, so none. However… people try to mimic urban legends as well as perform hoaxes. I had a friend in middle school that almost convinced the school the Jersey Devil was roaming the halls. Ha! I guess this comes close: I had a friend in high school that pulled one hell of a prank on me. He even got some of my friends in on it too. He took my Lovecraft books out of my drawer, burned my drawer, and placed a bible in their place. I literally believed that… for about a day. Then a friend called with a guilty conscious and told me about it. With friends like that…
Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?
Ben: Jack the Ripper. Again, we’ll never know who did it. It leaves the imagination wide open, and there’s tons of conspiracy theories based on him/her. Who knows?
Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?
Ben: I was six-years-old when Hellraiser was playing one night on cable. I only made it ten or fifteen minutes in before shutting the TV off. I couldn’t sleep for two days after that. Thankfully, I didn’t need therapy. But it was the taboo of it, as well as me needing to face my fears that got me through the film. After finishing it, I was still scared to death, but my imagination was operating on a whole new level. Barker is a genius.
I was ten-years-old when I read The Dark Half by Stephen King. I remember not really getting it and realizing I wasn’t old enough yet. I took the book to my mother and asked her a ton of questions. She helped me out a bit but said that one twin absorbing the other fetus in the womb was impossible and, therefore, the book was silly. A month later, a co-worker told my mother that she had the same thing happen to her when she was in the womb. She came home very scared, and said that whoever Stephen King was, he’s a weirdo, sick, twisted, and demented. It was love at first sight! I have him to thank for getting me hooked on horror.
Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?
Ben: That would be tie between Stephen King’s IT, The Shining, and Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door. The former due to it being one of the best horror novels ever written, at least in my very humble opinion. The concept, the characters, the world, and how IT could be anything. The Shining had me actually believing in ghosts for a few years. That’s how well that book is written. The movie is good, but the book is so much better. The Girl Next Door has amazing characters, an amazing world, but, oh, man… that poor girl. It’s based on a true story, which shows what human beings are truly capable of. I had a very, very hard time reading the book towards the end, for obvious reasons. But you can’t put it down. You’re there, like the other kids, bearing witness to true horror.
Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?
Ben: That would be a tie between Hellraiser and Alien. With Alien, Ridley Scott’s vision, as well as Giger’s art and creature scarred me. The life-cycle of the xenomorph hits us on a sub-conscious level, too, which, when you think about it, you can’t get more disturbing than that. The sequels just didn’t hold up to the original.
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?
Ben: The Hell Priest because it’s so damn hard to do! Ha! That’s why I’ve enlisted a friend who does special effects for a living. He told me it will take about four to five hours just to get my face and head finished. It’s going to be hard to pull off, but I love a challenge!
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?
Ben: I dislike gothic music, but every Halloween I love cranking up Type O Negative. My favorite song would be Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare-all). I have no idea why, but when Halloween hits, it’s gothic music time for Ben!
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?
Ben: Favorite treat would be a Snickers bar. I hate candy-corn. Whoever invented the latter should be drug out into the street and shot. I’m biased because I bit into one once and cracked a tooth. The pain was instant and immense. Not a good Halloween that year!
Meghan: Thanks for stopping by Ben. Before you go, what Halloween reads do you think we should snuggle up with?
Boo-graphy: Ben Eads lives within the semi-tropical suburbs of Central Florida. A true horror writer by heart, he wrote his first story at the tender age of ten. The look on the teacher’s face when she read it was priceless. However, his classmates loved it! Ben has had short stories published in various magazines and anthologies. When he isn’t writing, he dabbles in martial arts, philosophy and specializes in I.T. security. He’s always looking to find new ways to infect reader’s imaginations. Ben blames Arthur Machen, H.P. Lovecraft, Jorge Luis Borges, J.G. Ballard, Philip K. Dick, and Stephen King for his addiction, and his need to push the envelope of fiction.
Hollow Heart — Welcome to Shady Hills, Florida, where death is the beginning and pain is the only true Art…
Harold Stoe was a proud Marine until an insurgent’s bullet relegated him to a wheelchair. Now the only things he’s proud of are quitting alcohol and raising his sixteen-year-old son, Dale.
But there is an infernal rhythm, beating like a diseased heart from the hollow behind his home. An aberration known as The Architect has finished his masterpiece: A god which slumbers beneath the hollow, hell-bent on changing the world into its own image.
As the body count rises and the neighborhood residents change into mindless, shambling horrors, Harold and his former lover, Mary, begin their harrowing journey into the world within the hollow. If they fail, the hollow will expand to infinity. Every living being will be stripped of flesh and muscle, their nerves wrapped tightly around ribcages, so The Architect can play his sick music through them loud enough to swallow what gives them life: The last vestiges of a dying star.
Clive Barker, Dark Dreamer: A Retrospective Part 6
The Abarat series was several years in the making, conceived back in the late nineties with a series of epic-sized paintings. Barker had left the paintings hanging around the house, the collection steadily growing as other pursuits took his time. It wasn’t until the death of his father that Clive, surrounded by the paintings, decided that he had to do something with them. He had conceived the bones of the Abarat story as he painted; now he had to create the entire mythology.
Initially intended as a quartet of novels (since revised to five or six books), it is a tale with very familiar themes: the sea, the worlds beyond our own, and the sacred feminine. The difference here is that his storytelling is directed toward children, the creation of an epic story that would enrapture children and adults alike, in much the same way that Harry Potter and the Roald Dahl books had.
It was a story that would occupy him for many years, progress slowed by the need to create more paintings before the story could be written. The paintings would appear in the hardback copies of the books, captivating the reader as they read the tales. The undertaking is such that the work still isn’t finished today, its creation severely hampered by the coma and strokes of 2012 which left Barker significantly weakened (more on that later).
There were also other distractions as publishers and readers alike clamoured for new adult material. Barker had been working on a work entitled The Scarlet Gospels for years at this point, the story evolving and changing over the years before it reached its apotheosis.
Through all of this, for a decade, Barker’s attention was constantly taken by his new obsession: Abarat.
2002 – 2011, although movies and a separate novel appeared during this period, we shall forever think of as the Abarat years.
Due to the fact that the Abarat series is unfinished, I will here offer only a very basic outline, and not an “in full” analysis of the work, as I have done with previous work in this article.
Abarat is the story of Candy Quackenbush of Chickentown. Candy is bored and ill at ease with her life in the Nowheresville that is Chickentown, where nothing ever happens and the only ambitions achievable are to work in the chicken factory that gives the town its name or to get out.
When she is given an assignment by her teacher to write a report giving five facts about the town, Candy can have no way of knowing how her research will change her life. She cannot know the ties that Chickentown has with the fantastic, being as it was the former harbour and trading town of Murkitt on the sea of Isabella.
Her first inkling of something more exciting than chickens in Chickentown is when she goes to speak to the manager of the town’s hotel, hearing the story of Henry Mirkitt’s demise in that very hotel and the cryptic note and sextant that he left behind: “I was waiting for my ship to come in…”
Little did she know how her life would change when, in a rage after her assignment on Mirkitt is torn to shreds by her teacher and she is sent to the principal’s office, she goes wandering on some scrubland on the outskirts of town. Here she sees a man being pursued through the tall, dry grass, a strange man with antlers on his head and seven heads sprouting from the branches. John Mischief is a thief from the Abarat Archipelago, pursued to the place he calls the Hereafter by Mendelssohn Shape. In desperation, Mischief asks Candy to go to the lighthouse (a strange folly which stands amidst the grass in the scrubland, totally misnamed by Mischief since they were many hundreds of miles from the sea), and play the oldest game in the world. Confused, Candy does as the brothers ask her and sets off for the lighthouse while they distract Mendessohn Shape.
She enters the tower and climbs the rickety stairs, listening keenly for the sounds of pursuit which meant that Shape was following. Only when she reached the room at the top of the stairs did Candy understand what John Mischief meant when he said it was the oldest game in the world. In the centre of the room, there is an inverted pyramid, and a strange ball in the cracks on the floorboard. Now she knows what must be done, but she hears Shape on the stairs. As Shape reaches the top of the stairs, which crumble under his every step, Candy throws the ball at the cup and runs out onto the balcony which runs around the outside of the tower. Shape follows and grabs her, but the balcony collapses and both fall and lay unconscious at the foot of the tower.
Candy is awoken by Mischief and his brothers. Shape is still unconscious nearby, but he’s stirring and there is little time to lose. They take her to see what it is that she has called forth by throwing the ball into the cup. A little way from the lighthouse, lapping up against a jetty, is the sea. Before Shape can catch up with them, Mischief asks her one final favour, to look after something that he brought to the Hereafter with him. He explains that the sea will carry him to the Abarat and safety, but that she must stay in the Hereafter where she belongs. To his dismay, Candy demands to go with the brothers to the Abarat. There is little time to argue: Shape appears and both the brothers and Candy jump into the sea and the currents take them away from the shore to the islands of the Abarat… and Candy’s life is forever changed.
The Abarat Archipelago is a collection of twenty-five islands, all of them associated with a different hour of the day and the twenty-fifth hour, the time out of time. The story follows Candy on her travels around the islands, and tells of the changes she goes through and chaos that she brings in her wake wherever she goes. We meet Jimothy Tarry and his army of Tarrie Cats; Rojo Pixler, the nefarious chairman of the Commexo Corporation and his demonic mascot, The Commexo Kid; Mater Motley and her army of Stitchlings; and Christopher Carrion, the Lord of Midnight, whose greatest ambition is to bring perpetual night to the Abarat.
We follow as Candy tries to understand the politics and struggles of the people of the islands, while trying to understand how she herself fits into the fabric of this fantastical world. It is a journey of change, discovery of self, of friendships, and loves found and lost.
The Abarat series is planned to stretch over five books in total, with only three currently published (hence my reticence to write a full summary at this point, but offer only a tantalising synopsis). What Barker has already presented is a work of young adult fantasy which rivals anything written by C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carrol, or Roald Dahl. Once again, Clive Barker proves that even in darkness, there is beauty.
As implied earlier, Abarat is not the only work that Barker has produced in the Abarat period, although most of his time has been taken by Abaratian works. In 2007, Barker spoke about taking a break away from work on a novel called The Scarlet Gospels, writing a short novel called Mister B. Gone. Clive was living in the darkness of the Hellraiser world with Scarlet Gospels, and felt that he needed some brief respite. Mister B. Gone is still a very dark, sinister book, but not as epic in scale as Scarlet Gospels was conceived as being.
“Burn this book…”
That’s how the story begins, with the narrator imploring you to burn the book that you are reading. It is a demand that is repeated throughout the work, and many people have been tempted to do just that. Read on, though, and you find the history of a minor demon and “vicious little bastard,” Jakabok Boch. We read of how he was raised and abused in the shit piles of the lowest circles of hell, and how he came to inspire the printing of the first book… and how he came to be trapped within the pages of his own.
It would be impossible to give a full and in depth rundown of the entire story, as it is the transcribed ramblings of a tortured soul without a story, per se. It is the collected memories of the demon, Jakabok Boch, and must be read to be truly understood. Mister B. Gone would have worked very well as a Books of Blood story, although a little long in my opinion to have been included in a collection. Some fans deride Mister B. Gone as a throwaway scribbling that should have remained unpublished, but I feel differently. This book creeped me out. I read it in one reading while lying in bed, my wife sleeping beside me, and my baby daughter in the room next door. As the demon becomes more desperate, his demands more nasty and threatening, it feels that he is talking directly to you… whispering in your ear. I admire the book for that quality of writing.
Mister B. Gone was a Halloween release in October 2007, and quite fitting that it was published for that season, being as it was a welcome return to Barker’s horror roots. At the end, Jakabok Boch gives up on his imploring to burn the book, and just leave him on the shelf to gather dust… or pass it onto a friend. I know of several readers who have done just that and mailed the book to random addresses. To my knowledge, there are at least three copies of the book in the mail system, being passed from address to address, although I haven’t read of their whereabouts for several years… maybe they’ll turn up one day. Maybe one might drop on your doormat?
It was a welcome change to have quality, faithful adaptations made from his work. They restored the audience’s faith in Barker as a creator of horror after the thievery and raping of the Hellraiser franchise since Hellraiser 3, but to date these are the last movies to appear adapted directly from Barker’s own work and involving him in production.
Originally written in 1974, The Adventures of Mr. Maximillian Bacchus and His Travelling Circus was finally published in 2009, with illustrations by Richard Kirk. Although he initially denied that the stories were based on anyone in particular, he did finally admit that Bacchus was based on himself, the ballet dancer Ophelia was based on Ann Taylor, and the perfect prince was based around Graham Bickley, who Barker described as “the most beautiful of people, a wonderful looking 18 year old.”
The book itself is very short, comprised of four stories which connect to each other. We join Maximillian Bacchus as his circus travels across the country to play at a King’s castle. On the way, the circus give other performances and fall into adventures, which Barker tells of in his trademark, darkly fantastic manner. They are each classic fables in the style of the The Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson, and just totally wonderful.
With its illustrations and succinct storytelling, Maximillian Bacchus sits very well alongside The Thief of Always and the Abarat books as children’s literature.
And then, very abruptly, everything stopped.
2012 was possibly the worst year in the life of Clive Barker, the year which began with the ending of a court case that came about through an acrimonious split with long-term partner David Armstrong, and ended with Barker in hospital and close to death.
The court case and all the rumour I will leave alone, as tabloid and salacious as that subject is. I will, however, go into Clive’s illness as it continues to be a source of rumour and speculation among readers. It is strange that Clive’s long time absence from the public stage is still the subject of rumour and supposition, since Barker has been very open about what happened and the impact that his illness has had upon him.
Clive was busy at work on The Scarlet Gospels and the fourth Abarat book when he became ill. He attended what was a routine appointment for dental surgery, a routine procedure that millions of people will undergo each year. For Clive, it became a nightmare. He returned home following the procedure and collapsed unconscious. He was rushed to Cedars-Sinai hospital and diagnosed with toxic shock, which had caused him to have a stroke. He remained in a coma for a while, enduring three more strokes which left him debilitated and extremely weak. Clive being Clive, almost as soon as he regained consciousness he demanded to be unhooked from the machinery that had monitored him and wanted to get back to work.
Barker’s debilitation has been a source of great frustration for him since then. He is left pretty frail and struggled to leave his home in LA for several years. His usually prolific attendances at signings and conventions ceased, and his output of books also stopped. Abarat was hit the hardest, since he could no longer manage the huge canvases that were required of him. Interviews did appear from time to time, and the occasional photograph where he appeared thinner and far more frail than he had ever been.
None of this meant that he had stopped working. Quite the contrary. He still did what he could to complete Abarat (a project that is still ongoing) and The Scarlet Gospels. He was still selecting artwork to create the Imaginer series of books, which collects his visual art in book form. He also authorised the release of several Books of Blood stories in deluxe edition form.
At long last, after six years of absence, Barker made his first public appearances at conventions in 2018. Fans were glad to see him up and around, though were shocked to see him so frail. He has made further public appearances this year, and appeared briefly on a panel alongside Barbie Wilde, Doug Bradley, Nicholas Vince, and Simon Bamford. He may have been down for a while, but Barker is certainly not out.
Amidst his illness, there was much speculation about whether Barker would ever release another book. The general consensus among his hardcore fans was that they wouldn’t expect too much, such was the concern for his wellbeing. It was a welcome surprise in 2014 then, and one that was met with much excitement, when Clive began talking about The Scarlet Gospels on his Facebook page. A release date was soon announced for 2015.
Of course, Barker had been talking about The Scarlet Gospels for many, many years. The writing of this book was ongoing for around twenty years and had gone through many evolutions in that time. He first described it as a sprawling, epic history of religion and mankind… and hell, of course. What was delivered was something quite different: a horror-noir which charted the end of Barker’s most popular creation: Pinhead.
The work was met with mixed reaction from readers. Some applauded Barker’s return to horror fiction, his visceral approach to the work, and intent to shock. Others lamented the patchy quality of writing, with some positing the theory that parts of the story may have been ghost-written (a theory that I do not support). For certain, The Scarlet Gospels isn’t Barker’s best work, but it is still an enjoyable enough story and well worth reading for any Hellraiser fan.
The last true magicians alive in the world are gathered together, resolved to face their doom together. They have been hunted and pursued, most of their colleagues already killed by one who thirsts for their knowledge. They argue over the best way to proceed, to fight or submit, but it is already too late. They hear the tolling of the bells and smell the sickly sweet fragrance which precedes his coming… and then he is there in the room with them. Pinhead.
The Hellpriest finds new and inventive ways to massacre all but one of the gathered mages, tearing them apart and even impregnating one with a demon-baby which is birthed within moments of its conception. The only survivor is reconfigured and remoulded to play Pinhead’s dog for the rest of eternity.
Harry d’Amour is drinking himself into oblivion after the end of a difficult investigation. He is reliving his first liaison with hell, and for that he really needed to be drunk.
As d’Amour is drinking away his sorrow and regrets, his partner and guide, Norma Payne, is visited by the spirit of a lawyer who had left behind a house of sin that he wasn’t too keen on his family finding. Beyond this sketchy detail he would tell no more until both Harry and Norma agreed to sign an NDA. Norma admonished the man, telling him that she would sign no such thing and nor would Harry, but the man displayed just enough humanity for her to want to help him. She agreed to set up a meeting between Harry and the dead man, and so Harry found himself in New Orleans.
Harry travelled to the house of the dead man, and in the investigation, discovered a library of the arcane. While in the library, he discovers an ornate box which draws him in. He knows precisely what this is and senses the power within the box, finding himself absently toying with it until the thing is solving itself. He hears the distant tolling of bells as his protective tattoos begin to burn a warning. Soon enough, the Hellpriest’s god appears and attempts to apprehend him, but Harry is well versed in the arcane and utters an incantation which will seal the divide between the world and Hell. Before the portal closes, Pinhead apprehends him and offers him a deal: kill his dog and he will make him an offer he cannot refuse. Unwillingly, d’Amour does battle with the dog and is close to being bested before a phantom comes to his rescue. He flees, leaping through a window and breaking bones in the fall as the house tears itself apart.
D’Amour is helped by the man who has guided him this far, his hurts treated by a voodoo mage. He experiences a day of delirium after drinking some potion that the mage gives him, but awakes more or less cured, although still in pain. He returns to New York to heal his hurts, but is soon disabused of any notion of rest.
He sets off to visit Norma at her apartment to update her on all that happened on his trip to New Orleans, but is stopped by a stranger who shoves a crumpled piece of paper into his hand before disappearing into the crowds. Harry finds a quiet place where he won’t be seen before unfolding the paper and reading the note, knowing that it is from Norma. He reads the words which immediately chill him to the bone: “Don’t go to my apartment. Its bad. I’m in the old place. Come at 3am. If you itch, walk away.”
D’Amour goes to a bar and waits, drinking until the place closes. He takes a cab and heads to the place that Norma directed him to. He knows the place, of course. It is the place where he and Norma first met. He gets out of the cab a block or two from the place, making sure that he hasn’t been followed before heading to the empty office block which was once home to his psychiatrist. He breaks in and heads up to the old office, but finds no sign of his old friend. He searches through the reception area and into the former consulting room. He is about to give up when he goes to the en-suite and finds the message that Norma has left: an arrow scrawled in ash on the window, pointing downwards. In the basement was a gentleman’s club, and that is where Harry heads next.
At the top of the steps which lead to the club, Harry’s tattoos begin to tingle. He flicks on the lights and heads into the place, calling out a challenge. The room before him seems deserted and silent, and he moves further in before things begin flying at him. He runs to the stage, trying to get some height and see who… or what… is attacking him. He threatens the poltergeists with an incantation, and begins to recite the words when Norma’s voice cuts through the air. The ghosts attacking d’Amour are hers, and they are present at her command. She calls them off, but tells them not to stray far in case Harry has been followed. She leads him into the back room and Harry sees that she has been living there for some time.
Norma explains that the lawyer led them into a trap and that she was fooled. “There are highways open that should be closed… and there’s something coming down one of those highways – or all of them – that means you and me, and a lot of other people, harm.”
It isn’t anything that d’Amour hasn’t already guessed, but his first priority is to get Norma out of the cesspit that she has chosen as her hideout and get her somewhere more comfortable. With that in mind, Harry leaves her to arrange her accommodation.
The Hellpriest was busy also, setting his plans into action. He was in the Monastery of the Cenobitical Order and arranging the first phase of his scheme. He had been summoned to the chamber of his superiors for judgement, and it was a prospect that didn’t please him. He turned to his dog and told him that, if the judgement went against him, all of his endeavours must be destroyed. The dutiful servant understood and promised that he would do his duty.
Together they made their way to the Chamber of the Unconsumed, where the leaders of the Order were gathered. Pinhead was accused of heresy, of researching human magic. Such behaviour was outside of the system, and the Cenobite Order was built on rigid systems. They had found books which had aided his research and the evidence against him was incontrovertible. The judgement of the Unconsumed was that the Hellpriest be banished from the Order to the Trenches; his belongings had already been taken and destroyed. All Pinhead said in response was “Thank you.”
He left the chamber and walked across the courtyard, pointing to a stand of trees and ordering his dog to wait for him there. Once the servant was outside the gates, the Hellpriest went about his business. He went to a row of buildings which stood under the wall and entered the last one in the row. Here is where he had done his work and laid out his plans. In an upper room was a birdcage filled with origami cranes, the identity of a Cenobite priest written on each one. He wrote out the last few names on the last few cranes before placing them in the cage with their brethren. He whispered the incantation he had learned and watched as the cranes became animate, their wings flapping against each other. He let the first few cranes free, watching to see how they would act. After a moment of testing their new found freedom, they set off to do their duty. The Hellpriest released more cranes, not all of them for fear of being discovered, but soon enough the cage was empty and the endeavour was underway.
He climbed up to the top of the walls and looked out over the city, where there was a revolution underway. He watched as the city walls came under attack from people with rudimentary petrol bombs. After a few moments drinking this sight in, he heard screams from much closer at hand. Now he turned his attention back to the monastery, where his work was being done.
He walked back across the courtyard and made his way up the steps to the cells, where he found the priests, priestesses, abbots, deacons, and bishops in states of extremis. Most were already dead, but one or two were still in the process of dying. He was well satisfied with his work until a brother he knew called out to him, calling him a traitor. This one was obese with dark glasses, and he accused the Hellpriest of his treachery and murder. Pinhead denied involvement, but the fat Cenobite didn’t believe him and caught him by his vestments. Only then did a convulsion rip through the Cenobite and he expelled blood from his mouth in a torrent, soaking the Hellpriest in gore. He turned and left the scene, making his way across the courtyard to the gates.
He was almost out of the monastery when the Abbott who had meted out his judgement called out to him, accusing him. Pinhead turned and once again denied involvement, but the Abbott called him a liar. The Hellpriest took hold of the man and began tearing his vestments away from his body. The Abbott had ordered the inquisitors to come and take the Hellpriest, and time was too short to complete the atrocity that he was currently committing. He dropped the Abbott and left him to his guards, leaving the monastery, and heading to the forest to meet with his dog.
Harry d’Amour went to visit his tattooist, Caz, in hopes of finding Norma a more comfortable place to stay. He tells Caz about his trip to New Orleans and the trap that had been set for him there, and how Norma had gone into hiding. The big man listened to all of this, promising to find a place for Norma to lie low in Brooklyn. Harry agreed to Caz’s plan and returned to Norma with food and brandy.
Harry is sleeping, Norma talking to the spirit of a man named Nails, when Caz arrives at the club with Lana, a friend of both Harry and Caz with more protective tattoos on her body than both men combined. She was a magnet for the supernatural, and had agreed to have Norma stay with her and keep her under her protection.
On the way to Lana’s house in Caz’s van, Harry’s tattoos were worryingly quiet. They were less than a mile from their destination when he screamed at Caz to stop and jumped out of the van. He looked down to the corner of the street that they’d just turned into and saw what could only be a mirage: standing on the corner, as if waiting for the bus, was his saviour from New Orleans, Dale. Harry called him and approached, and the man explained that his dreams had told him to be on that spot, at that moment. Suddenly, Harry’s tattoos flared up and he dropped to his knees. Something was coming, something big, and all of his tattoos were screaming against it.
When the sensation in Harry’s tattoos subsided, the introductions were made between Dale and Harry’s friends, and they became aware of a vibration in the air which rose to a fever pitch as they listened. There was a force in the air which blew out windows and cracked pavements. Without further discussion, the group armed themselves and waited for what was coming.
A doorway of fire opened up in the street before them and the Hellpriest appeared with his pet dog. Pinhead approached d’Amour, making him an offer to be his witness as he carried out plans that he had been making for most of a lifetime. He would be denied nothing, and the Hellpriest’s gospel would be one of total honesty… all d’Amour had to do was witness and write down the events that occurred from here on. Of course, Harry’s response was a “fuck you,” but Pinhead was not here to be denied. Even as d’Amour pumped bullets into the Hellpriest’s head, his dog had quietly circled the group and now held Norma Paine, a curved blade held to her belly and threatening to gut her if d’Amour made the wrong move. Still, Pinhead was wounded and bleeding his acidic blood onto the floor. The Hellpriest whispered an incantation which turned his blood into vicious darts which flew at d’Amour and caught his arm. D’Amour wrapped his jacket around his arms and charged at the demon, grabbing his arms and forcing them downward. More blood-darts flew from the Hellpriest as he roared in revulsion and rage, destroying Caz’s van and causing it to explode.
The Hellpriest was not as adept at the use of this form of magic as he had thought – there were too many variables in the situation and it was throwing his calculations off. Knowing that this encounter was not going the way that he had hoped, the Hellpriest called his dog and retreated… but not without a prize… He took Norma Paine back to Hell with him. D’Amour was rendered immobilised as the associations with past experiences overwhelmed him and for a moment he was unable to act. Caz screamed at him to move, to do something, and at last Harry sprang into action. He sprinted toward the portal that Pinhead and his dog had disappeared into and followed, the doorway disappearing as he entered.
Harry’s friends follow him through the doorway, and they find themselves in Hell. Upon their arrival, the friends feel distrust toward Dale, since he appeared just before the Hellpriest. They begin to walk toward civilization, but Dale stops and tells them that something wonderful is about to happen and they will trust him. Just then Lana begins speaking with a voice that isn’t her own, and it soon becomes apparent that it is Norma. The Hellpriest has beaten her severely, and she is close to death, but she tells the friends where she is and how to get to her. Too soon, Norma’s body calls her spirit back… apparently there is more that she must do in the world of the living.
From there the story becomes a pursuit to rescue Norma. They follow in Pinhead’s wake as he travels through Hell to the sanctum which holds the body of Lucifer, the Morning Star, who Pinhead believes to be dead. There, Harry witnesses as Pinhead violates what he believes to be the corpse of the fallen angel, ripping away the armour which he believes gave the devil his power and wearing it himself. As he is leaving, the devil awakes and, realising the violation wrought upon him as he slept, goes after the Hellpriest.
Meanwhile, Norma is dying. Pinhead has violated her and she has only moments to live. Harry finds her with his friends, lying on a beach, and promises to see Pinhead dead before he bears her body back to the world. Pinhead also finds them, and renders Harry blind as Lucifer appears and attacks the Hellpriest.
A battle ensues with both demons unleashing their power upon each other and tearing Hell apart. The friends rush to escape as the ground opens up around them and both demons lay each other low. Lucifer tears the armour from Pinhead’s body and destroys him utterly before turning his attention to the realm that he made for himself so many generations past.
The book ends with Harry blind and moving into Norma’s old apartment. He is emptying his office and one of his friends find the puzzle box that he took from the house of the lawyer in New Orleans. He takes the box from the man and hides it once again, keeping it safe from inquisitive hands. Now, Harry will take over from Norma as the interpreter of the dead.
And so to the future…
Barker has already announced that he has a new novel close to completion: Scarebaby. He has said that this will be another return to horror, and that it is the scariest thing that he has written in a long time.
He has also announced that he is developing two new television series: one based around his Books of Blood stories, the other a Nightbreed television show. Of course, these are in development and may never be made (there have been a few series pitched for both books in the last twenty years), but the signs are hopeful.
Clive has also attended more conventions and has further appearances planned for conventions next year.
It seems that Barker still has the energy and will to create new worlds, while revisiting the old favourites from time to time. What will he create next? Only time will tell, but what I hope this (rather long) retrospective proves is that he has already cemented his place as one of the most influential dark fiction authors of our time, as well as the greatest imaginer of the last thirty years. I’m sure there are many writers who feel, as I do, that we owe him a huge debt of gratitude for showing us that there are no limits to our own imagination.
Thank you for joining us through this 6-part retrospective. I hope you have enjoyed the work that author Paul Flewitt has put into this. Thank you, Paul, for sharing this with us.
Paul Flewitt is a horror/dark fantasy author. He was born on the 24th April 1982 in the Yorkshire city of Sheffield.
Always an avid reader, Paul put pen to paper for the first time in 1999 and came very close to inking a deal with a small press. Due to circumstances unforeseen, this work has never been released, but it did give Paul a drive to achieve within the arts.
In the early 2000’s, Paul concentrated on music; writing song lyrics for his brother and his own bands. Paul was lead singer in a few rock bands during this time and still garners inspiration from music to this day. Paul gave up his musical aspirations in 2009.
In late 2012, Paul became unemployed and decided to make a serious attempt to make a name for himself as a writer. He went to work, penning several short stories and even dusting off the manuscript that had almost been published over a decade earlier. His efforts culminated in his first work being published in mid-2013, the flash fiction piece “Smoke” can be found in OzHorrorCon’s Book of the Tribes: A Tribute To Clive Barker’s Nightbreed.