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The Theatre Phantasmagoriaโ€”The Horror, the Horror, by Andrew Gehlsen

“๐˜›๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ด๐˜ค๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ฎ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ญ ๐˜ด๐˜ค๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ฎ๐˜ด. ๐˜๐˜ต ๐˜ฒ๐˜ถ๐˜ข๐˜ฌ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ธ๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜ด. ๐˜Š๐˜ณ๐˜ข๐˜ค๐˜ฌ๐˜ด ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ช๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ค๐˜ฆ๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฎ. ๐˜›๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฎ ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ข ๐˜ฃ๐˜ถ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฅ๐˜ณ๐˜ถ๐˜ฎ. ๐˜ˆ ๐˜ธ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธโ€™๐˜ด ๐˜ด๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ. ๐˜ ๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜จ๐˜ฉ๐˜ต ๐˜ด๐˜ฏ๐˜ข๐˜ฌ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด ๐˜ถ๐˜ฑ ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ๐˜ฏ, ๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ด ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ด๐˜ฑ๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ, ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ง๐˜ถ๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜บ.

๐˜ˆ๐˜ฏ๐˜น๐˜ช๐˜ฆ๐˜ต๐˜บ ๐˜ฎ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ช๐˜ง๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ด ๐˜ง๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฎ ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ด ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฐ๐˜ด๐˜ต ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ญ โ€ฆ”

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

A warm welcome back to Night Terror Novelsโ€™ ongoing flash fiction series, The Theatre Phantasmagoria, and to our Flash Fiction Fridaysโ€”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 โ€œwrap-upโ€ 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 June submission window here.

The theme for Aprilโ€™s submissions was a comedy of terrors: stories centred around April Foolโ€™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 with โ€œMondo Hip Hopโ€ an enjoyable sci-fi, comedy romp with an Easter-themed surprise from Michael H. Hanson. Then, the April lineup was joined by Matt Bliss, who brought us โ€œMaking Friends and Accidentally Summoning Demons at Campโ€, a snappy, fun tale of summer camp chaos in which a prank careens into the realms of the demonic. Last time, Megan Kiekel Anderson delivered โ€œThe Last Strawโ€, a wry story which follows a coupleโ€™s pranks against one another as they are taken to dangerous degrees.

To close out this monthโ€™s darkly comic tales we have Andrew Gehlsenโ€™s โ€œThe Horror, the Horrorโ€, a highly inventive and amusing homage to the horror genre, filtered through an absurdist lens. 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


Narrator of the Narrator
The Narrator is an oesophagus wrapped about an echo chamber, squeezing it of its bass and treble and unfiltered, shadow-air. The Narrator is a voice stepping down a winding stairwell, gripping the railing; of oak and creaking doors. Cuts the air like a stringed instrument, but with an eternal cord that hangs on. Formidably, and tonally, the Narrator. He calls himself Vincent Price. Personally, I would have gone with someone more contemporary, like Kathleen Turner or Ralph Ineson.

Vincent Price
Hey! Hey! We talked about this. Ahem:
A group gathers for another celebration.
The stage.
Their stage.
Jaundiced light droplets into a floating cocoon, and in the middle of it are a mic and stand. The first speaker, a middle-aged woman, round stoic face and a forceful, steady pace, emerges from the dusky air, stands inside of the pulsating oval, and removes the mic.

The one who helped splatter Texas across our film screen maps โ€ฆ

Leatherface, Motor-vational Speaker
Lately, I’ve been doing motivational pop-ups at the gym. I perform a freestyle clogging session, then a little chainsaw to appease the enthusiasts, followed by a motivational hookโ€”with the appropriate health food plug, of course. Today’s was: โ€˜Iโ€™m going to cut off your face, and wear it like Hannibal! Quaker Oats!โ€™

Vincent Price
The oozy drippings from the venueโ€™s stalactitesโ€”this plasmatic-black roof of a creatureโ€™s mouthโ€”hang in mid-air before gently dolloping to the feet of audience members and onlookers.

Next is a priest. THE Priest โ€ฆ

The Exorcist
I have a rather large urethra and a small bladder which results in a volcanic, hydrant-like spray. It has aided in the removal of brush fires and various religious charity fundraisers in the Georgetown area.

Vincent Price
Followed by a legend that welcomes fire, and rumination of despair โ€ฆ

The Headless Horseman
One of the Royal Familyโ€™s horses has signed a book deal. The book will be called Clopping the Hoof: How to Lead a Royal Occasion. Just preordered my copy. Having it delivered by horse.

Vincent Price
Hmm, hmm, hmm. Distant chuckles sprinkled with an organ-splitting guffaw wisp about. Another wet substance spills again: a bowl of soup, or mystery fluid from an open wound. The odour is soppy macaroni and cheese, or a pint of urine. A shape arrives at the scene to soak it all up, jar in mandible to collect. This is worth something in the local marketplace.

A ghoulish grunt and a heavy thud, followed by a splat. Organs arenโ€™t like they used to be.
The horseman has clopped.
Next, a hulking, hobbling butcher with a chainsaw over one shoulder.

Chef Hannibal
I offer no shish, only macabre.

Vincent Price
Terrifying. And now, welcome! She has traversed along a wispy road from somewhere far away โ€ฆ

The Nun
Recipe for Devil’s Porridge:
First, mix together oatmeal and Tabasco.
Then, email all the porn you have to the church directory.

Vincent Price
The mutants and ghouls applaud generously.
The Nunโ€™s face glows an eerie grey.
I do believe we have a winner.

But oh, do you hear that trampling? โ€˜Tis the Headless Horseman galloping off so soon in the night? Perhaps he or his horse have been bewitched by the spookiness present here. What uncanny dismay this unknown property of the world is producing, what birth this creature is exuding โ€ฆ Dear Heavens, into the realm of the Almightyโ€”

What the f@#$%ing HOOF?!
Narrator! Narrator! Haaalp!

Narrator of the Narrator
UGH. Okay, mister โ€œsmaller-less-importantโ€ narrator.

Vincent Price
Itโ€™s Vincent! Damn!

Narrator of the Narrator
Okay, Vincent. Vincent Price scurries off like a toddler, careening into patrons with what seems to be some mad and spineless display.

Vincent Price
Hey!

Narrator of the Narrator
As the roof collapses, he finds a safe-enough corner so as to remain faithful to his role this evening. And apparently nothing more.

Vincent Price
Alright, I got this now! Thank you!

Narrator of the Narrator
Remember to do your laundry when youโ€™re done playing.

Vincent Price
Narrator! Unh! Begone!
The Final Girl bursts through the stageโ€™s yellow bubble like knives being thrown, or a wielding machete. Wood cracks and splinters off in many directions. Several are wounded.

The scream to end all screams. It quakes the walls. Cracks and pierces them. This room is a busted eardrum. A windowโ€™s shattered pane. Yellow light snakes up and down, veins of splendour, of futility.

Anxiety manifests from monsters most of all โ€ฆ

The remainder of daytime folds beneath the clasping dusk. The odour is of emanating grime, of broken ladybug and beetle shells, scattered along the rug like flakes of skin beneath a spring sun splaying through the window.

A box elder bug, having robotically trekked across the floor, states its unnatural gradualness, a glitchiness that spindles the nerves, twists and tightens, pulls up the sleeve and injects the arm with more bugs, all kinds that scuttle up and down the limbs, trafficking, agitating the quiet with its own temporal ambience, the sound of madness the mind will never be rid of.

Eternally yours, the bugs write in their skittering, calligraphic language.

Distant trembling bounces and rattles and magnifies. Sun and moon tilt from their crusty hangnails, plummeting. The Age of Discordianism. A new Hell.

Earth gouges itself away, skin fragments floating into the cosmos.

And from everyone in the performance space emanates the foulest smell, the inside of all that they are. Iron, digesting water and old food, wells of themselves flipping inside out, flaying lining of organ-meat upon dying grass. Guts and brains smash into litter, a collage of matter; of soaked leaves and weeds coagulating on an unseasonably warm autumn day, the remnants of decay billow upwards like ghosts dancing.

She dances. It is her birthday: the Final Girl.

These creaturesโ€™ limbs reach out and gather all they can.
Spreading, rotting together, leaving the world.

The roomโ€™s shattered skeleton of blood-matter, of present looking down on past. Or future upon present and past, both wrapped up in each otherโ€™s limbs, a coiling of innards. Death.

This was her path. The Final Girlโ€™s way. A distant chainsaw attempts at rebirth. To no avail.

When indeed must horror yield to the humour of its own dark state? Ah, the balance!

A hand yearns from the coagulate. Up like a flag, squelching blood and flesh and bone.

Unknown Smashed Performer
What โ€ฆ do โ€ฆ you โ€ฆ aahhh, damn โ€ฆ call โ€ฆ the end โ€ฆ of the tale โ€ฆ of such horror?

Vincent Price
Slight movements yield exhausted groans, like children not wanting to go to church. Insisting upon being left alone.

Unknown Smashed Performer
A real โ€ฆ Footer. Unh. Aaagh.

Vincent Price
The hand collapses in victory.
Pained groans, squishing noises, as friends expire together in a swill of slowly-pulsating ooze. Into a puddle, a portrait of still-lives.

A bubble of collected fluid bursts, popping with a thick wetness that splashes along the floor.

Epilogue

Narrator of the Narrator
The Narrator who calls himself Vincent Price hides behind a tree, looks in on the meeting. His hands are still wet from accidentally pissing on them a moment prior to the readerโ€™s moving eye.

Vincent Price
Hey! Cโ€™mon! Jesus! Ahem. Excuse me:
Various animals gather in a barnyard. Just past twilight. They discuss their personal experiences as descendants of famous horror movie icons, as well as food, the weather, and other interests and matters of topical relations.

Claude, Grand Nephew of Misery, the Pig From Misery
Iโ€™ve been on a steady diet of Nathaniel Hawthorne stories and Gary Larson comics lately. Suffice it to say: I am still staggered by dreams of veiled priests and cartoon cows humping in gothic barns โ€ฆ

Vincent Price
The animals nod in agreement.
The horror, the horror.

Narrator of the Narrator
Real original.


About the Author

ANDREW GEHLSEN studied writing and film in college while working at a library. He also helped develop scripts and wrote reviews for the college radio station. He has since been published in Iron Doves (under a pseudonym), Dark Entries Journal, Wrought Journal, and has work forthcoming in State of Matter. He is grateful for weird friends and a steady diet of horror movies growing up. You can find more of his work on Instagram @midwesterngent3.


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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 โ€œKrodhaโ€ can be found in the Wild Violence anthology from Blood Rites Horror, his second short story โ€œWhat Ye Sowโ€ can be found in Issue #X of All Worldโ€™s Wayfarer, and a third titled โ€œWhisper, Whisperโ€ appears in Issue #63 of Dark Dossier. Joshua is also the founder of Night Terror Novels and edited its debut anthology, Ceci nโ€™est pas une histoire dโ€™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, nightterrornovels@gmail.com, or via Instagram or Twitter, @JDKAuthor.

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