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The Theatre Phantasmagoria—Making Friends and Accidentally Summoning Demons at Camp, by Matt Bliss

“𝘐 𝘧𝘦𝘭𝘵 𝘴𝘪𝘤𝘬 𝘢𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵. 𝘏𝘰𝘸 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘐 𝘣𝘦 𝘢 𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘳𝘰𝘳𝘪𝘻𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘬𝘪𝘥? 𝘖𝘯 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘣𝘪𝘳𝘵𝘩𝘥𝘢𝘺, 𝘯𝘰 𝘭𝘦𝘴𝘴. 𝘈𝘴𝘩𝘢𝘮𝘦𝘥 𝘰𝘧 𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘧𝘢𝘳 𝘐’𝘥 𝘭𝘦𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘨𝘰, 𝘐 𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘱𝘱𝘦𝘥 𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘸𝘢𝘳𝘥 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘤𝘩𝘦𝘥 𝘢 𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘰𝘸𝘢𝘳𝘥 𝘈𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘯, 𝘦𝘢𝘨𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘱 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘯𝘰𝘯𝘴𝘦𝘯𝘴𝘦.”

Greetings boils, ghouls, and other creatures of the night!

A warm welcome back to Night Terror Novels’ ongoing flash fiction series, The Theatre Phantasmagoria, and to our Flash Fiction Fridays—where we bring you fresh dark fiction of 2,000 words or less at the end of every week.

With The Theatre Phantasmagoria, a new theme is announced each month, and by the end of said month, four stories are selected from our call for submissions to be featured here on the site in a Friday post. These pieces will also be published in a “wrap-up” anthology at the start of 2023, showcasing the original works that debut here at Night Terror Novels throughout 2022. If you’re an author yourself and this has piqued your interest, please find details regarding the flash fiction theme for our May submission window here.

The theme for April’s submissions was a comedy of terrors: stories centred around April Fool’s Day and its various hijinks, of pranks gone wrong and the consequences of such, or similar horror and horror-comedy stories along these lines. Our fourth month launched last week with “Mondo Hip Hop” an enjoyable sci-fi, comedy romp with an Easter-themed surprise from Michael H. Hanson. Tonight, the April lineup is joined by author Matt Bliss, who brings us “Making Friends and Accidentally Summoning Demons at Camp”, a snappy, fun tale of summer camp chaos in which a prank careens into the realms of the demonic. You can find out more about the author featured in today’s post down below, including links on where to find them elsewhere.

We here at Night Terror Novels hope that you enjoy today’s terrifying tale, and remember to check back in on Fridays for future showings in The Theatre Phantasmagoria

Welcome to …

The Theatre Phantasmagoria

I don’t know why we did it. When you’re young, being cruel is just something else to do, I suppose. Either way, looking back, I wish I would have handled things differently.
Allen was the one who started it. ‘It’s tradition,’ he said, fixing his dark eyes on me.
‘No,’ I said. ‘It’s his birthday, and it’s a dumb tradition too. Poor guy.’
‘He should have known better, then. If you have a birthday at camp, you’re going to get pranked. Everyone knows that.’
‘Like he could help it,’ I said, heading back to my bunk. And honestly, I didn’t know that.
‘So what are we going to do?’ asked the largest of the boys. His bed sagged under the bulk of his weight. ‘The old plunger trick?’
Allen paced the cabin. ‘Naw. It’s the first prank of summer camp, so it’s got to be a good one.’ His mouth curved back in thought.
‘Well, what about the girls?’
‘What?’ I asked. ‘You prank them too?’
Victor jumped onto my bunk and threw his slim arm over my shoulder. ‘Look kid, I get it. You’re new here and don’t quite know how it works yet, but every year the girls try to get us with some lame-ass prank. Then, after they fail, we come back with a real nasty one to teach ‘em a lesson.’
‘Yeah!’ someone shouted from deep within the cabin.
‘Not yet though,’ Allen said. ‘We gotta figure out what to do with birthday boy first.’ He clapped his hands together. ‘So, what do we know about him?’
‘Uh … he’s a wuss,’ the largest boy snickered.
Already, I didn’t like where this conversation was going.
‘Why’d you say that?’
‘Well,’ Victor said. ‘He actually believes the stories about this place, and he’s terrified by them. That’s why he won’t sleep on his back, you know.’
‘Wait, what?’ I asked, clearly confused.
‘He says that’s how the demons get into your body.’
‘No.’ I shook my head. ‘I mean, what stories?’
Allen stopped pacing and smiled. ‘That’s right, you’re new. Rumour is that this place is cursed.’ Something strange glinted in Allen’s eyes. ‘Supposedly, some sort of cult lived out in the woods here. Worshipped some demon … Gemloch, I think. They all ended up killing each other in this crazy mass ritual. Blood, beheadings, real nasty stuff. That’s why the land was so cheap for the camp builders.’
‘And … why it’s cursed,’ Victor added.
‘But don’t worry, new kid. It’s just a B.S. story that the counsellors made up to scare all the kids. No one seriously believes it.’ Allen sneered and went back to pacing.
‘Well birthday boy believes it,’ the large kid said.
Allen snapped his fingers. ‘That’s it! I’ve got an idea.’
The other boys all nodded, smiling as if they knew what he was thinking. Then all at once, they each looked at me.
‘Well, new kid, what do you say? Are you with us, or are you going to be a wuss too?’
My heart sank at the thought, but really, what choice did I have?

They placed five lit candles around him while he slept. Drawing a crude pentagram, although I doubt any of them could even spell the word. I didn’t want to help them with this nonsense, but I didn’t want to turn the whole cabin against me.
We wrapped the scratchy bunk blankets around us, tying them in place like hooded robes pulled just low enough to hide our faces. I really made sure to hide mine.
The other boys carefully rolled the sleeping kid over to his back, stifling giggles and snickers along the way.
‘What if we give him a heart attack?’ I whispered to the boy next to me.
‘It’s never happened before,’ he said, but the tone of his voice was less than reassuring.
‘Okay,’ said Allen. ‘Are you guys ready?’
The others nodded from under their hoods, and I slowly took a step backwards.
Allen held his hands over the poor kid and shouted, ‘Oh Dark One! We give you this sacrifice on the day of his birth!’
The boy bolted upright quicker than a mousetrap. At seeing the candles, the figures, the shrouded faces surrounding him, his lip trembled and terror quickly flooded his eyes.
Allen continued, ‘We are your …’ He paused on the word and circled a hand in the air.
‘Servants,’ someone else added, choking on his breath while struggling to hold in a laugh.
‘Yes!’ Allen said. ‘Your servants! Oh great Gemloch, we do as you command! We give this child as a sacrifice!’
The poor kid recoiled under his blanket, shivering at each word. He let out a whimper as his wet eyes flicked from one shrouded face to the next. Panic and confusion painted across him.
I felt sick at the sight. How could I be a part of terrorizing this kid? On his birthday, no less. Ashamed of how far I’d let this go, I stepped forward and reached a hand toward Allen, eager to stop this nonsense.
I SMELL YOUR SOUL, YOU PATHETIC LITTLE SHIT!’ the words hissed from Allen in an alarming cadence.
I jerked my hand back in surprise. ‘Jeez, Allen. I think that’s enough,’ I said. ‘You’re taking it too far.’
His head jerked sideways with a sickening crack.
The frightened kid at our centre pressed back, screaming, climbing on top of his pillow.
‘Okay, chill out guys,’ I said. ‘You already scared him, that’s enough!’
Another boy grunted as his back stiffened. His elbows snapped as they twisted past centre. His body trembled and each of his fingers curled into bony hooks.
‘Guys …’ I said. ‘What’s going on?’ The words left me in hurried breaths and pounding heartbeats.
The boy in the middle screamed again.
KILL THE INNOCENT ONE!’ someone cried out in a broken voice.
YES! WE WILL DANCE IN HIS FLESH!’ The words shrieked out in throaty cries.
Allen twisted his head again at a too-far angle with pop. His mock hood fell from his head, and I could see his tortured face. Veins burst from too-tight skin. His eyes, now black and soulless, fixed on me while his teeth snapped at the air between us.
Allen’s jaw opened to reveal row upon row of razor-sharp teeth. He knelt down, pressing close to the kid’s neck before him.
Without thinking, I lunged at him. I grabbed Allen, or what used to be Allen, and we tumbled to the floor.
The other boys moved closer.
I jumped to my feet and reached out to the boy still on the bed. I grabbed him and pulled him up behind me. ‘Run,’ I said and scanned the snarling faces surrounding us.
‘I … c-c-cant,’ he said, and I knew he was right. Our backs were to the wall. They were too close. They were too strong.
Allen twisted up and snapped his teeth at my face.
The other boy screamed as Victor brought his hooked fingers closer.
I scampered back, pressed shoulder to shoulder with the other kid, but still they moved in on us. With all my strength, I kicked my heel into Allen’s gut. The blow hardly made him flinch.
I TASTE YOUR FEAR!’ he barked in my face, and I knew it was useless.
I closed my eyes, waiting for the terror to end—hoping to wake from this nightmare—and suddenly, the cabin door swung open behind them. I looked up to see six girls burst into the room. Each one held shaving cream in one hand, and a plunger in the other. They froze, taking in the horrifying scene before them.
Allen stopped and turned toward the girls. He unhinged his jaw and let loose a noise like glass crunching around twisted steel.
The other boys, the things, turned their black eyes to face them also.
The girls screamed. Shaving cream and plungers clattered to the floor, and they all ran out the door.
Allen and the creatures that used to be my bunk-mates sprinted after them. Running on all fours, snarling, screeching, their nails carving deep gouges in the floorboards. They tore through to the outside, ripping the door off its hinges along the way. Grunts and screams echoed in the distance.
‘What in the hell was that?’ the kid next to me finally asked.
I turned toward him and let out a shaking breath. ‘That,’ I said, ‘is probably the best, and last prank this camp will ever see. My name is Terence, by the way, and uh … happy birthday, I guess.’
‘Thanks,’ he said, brushing some unseen dirt from his shirt. ‘I’m Samir, but you can call me Sam. I really owe you one, man.’
‘No,’ I said. ‘Trust me, you don’t.’
He twisted his head in confusion. ‘Oh yeah? Why’s that?’
‘Because …’ I smiled. ‘I never told them that it’s my birthday too.’

About the Author

MATT BLISS is a construction worker turned speculative fiction writer from Las Vegas, Nevada. He believes there’s no such thing as too much coffee and is the proud owner of way too many pets. His short fiction has appeared in Cosmic Horror Monthly, 99 Tiny Terrors, and Scare Street’s Night Terrors among other published and forthcoming works. If you don’t find him haunting the used book aisle of your local thrift store, you can always find him on Twitter at @MattJBliss.

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By J.D. Keown | Night Terror Novels

JOSHUA KEOWN lives on the outskirts of the North York Moors with his feral little hound of hell, Lola. Despite his proximity to Whitby and a lifetime aversion to being out in the sun, he would like it to be known that he is definitely not a vampire. Joshua has always been an avid enthusiast of the horror genre in all its forms, and he now writes ghastly, ghoulish stories of his own. His debut short story “Krodha” can be found in the Wild Violence anthology from Blood Rites Horror, his second short story “What Ye Sow” can be found in Issue #X of All World’s Wayfarer, and a third titled “Whisper, Whisper” appears in Issue #63 of Dark Dossier. Joshua is also the founder of Night Terror Novels and edited its debut anthology, Ceci n’est pas une histoire d’horreur (This is Not a Horror Story) in 2021. His debut novella, Maggot Brain, is coming soon, for which the full details can be found on the Night Terror Novels website. Joshua can be found prowling almost every corner of the internet in some capacity, but is most easily reached through his business email address,, or via Instagram or Twitter, @JDKAuthor.

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