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Synopsis

This volumes contains five short stories of weirdness and horror:

EXTRA-SPECIAL FIRST ISSUE!: An aficionado of old horror comics, Toby Johnson is overjoyed when he stumbles across an issue of an obscure early-70s horror series. Initially he assumes the comic’s cover blurb--“Extra-Special First Issue!”--is only the usual comic-book hyperbole. But he soon discovers otherwise when on a drunken lark he mails off the forty-year-old comic’s subscription coupon...and begins receiving issues of the long-defunct series in the mail, looking as if they just rolled off the printing press! Unfortunately his payment for the subscription doesn’t go through, and before long he is beset by a pair of supernatural bill-collectors who look like they came straight out of an old horror comic. (5,000 words)

THE COLOR OF DEATH: Jackson Hay was born with the ability to see auras--halos of light that surround people. These auras come in many colors, but they invariably go black shortly before a person dies. Jackson has learned to turn this fact to his advantage by stalking those whose auras have darkened and filming their deaths, then selling the videos on an underground collector’s market. He’s made a heap of money at this game, and when he spots a dazzlingly beautiful young woman’s aura go black one night, he expects to make a heap more: the deaths of beautiful girls are the hottest sellers on the market. He follows the girl, camcorder at the ready, but things don’t go quite the way he expects. (6,000 words)

THE HORROR IN GRETCHEN'S CAFE: The Old Ones, made popular in H. P. Lovecraft’s horror fiction, are very real, though nothing like the way Lovecraft imagined them. Instead of palpably oozy grotesqueries, they’re completely non-material, able to enter our plane of existence only as fictional ideas. The problem is, once here, they wreak untold havoc, distorting reality by their alien presence and making things go wrong everywhere (many periods of war and unrest are directly attributable to them). Now, psychics working for the U.S. government’s way-beyond-top-secret Paranormal Affairs Division have determined that an Old One is about to manifest in a coffee shop in Ohio. The Division has sent its best agent, Max Chance, to put an end to the problem before it begins by using his expertly trained eye to spot the person who looks like they’re suddenly having an idea, and then blowing that person’s brains out. (3,000 words)

LOST IN THE DETAILS: A man whose life is on the skids grows obsessed with an intricately detailed painting hanging in a bar. As his fortunes decline, the crowded, convivial dinner scene in the picture comes to seem infinitely preferable to the real world. And, indeed, before long the painting begins to attain a reality all its own. (3,300 words)

NO MAN'S LAND: Private Nicholas Stark, a U.S. soldier in World War 1, awakens after a catastrophic battle to find himself injured and alone in a moonlit landscape of ravaged corpses. But he soon discovers he isn’t as alone as he thought, for a ghoulish creature is creeping about and feasting on the dead men’s flesh. The ghoul soon spots Nicholas and pursues him across a nightmarish terrain of blood and mud and rotting bodies. Nicholas must resort to horrible measures in order to survive. (4,100 words)

Total word count: 22,000 words.

Contains profanity, gruesome content.

These stories are also available separately.

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