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The Theatre Phantasmagoriaโ€”All Hail the Coral Queen!, by Samuel M. Hallam

“๐˜ ๐˜จ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ค๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฎ ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ญ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ช๐˜ต ๐˜ธ๐˜ข๐˜ด ๐˜ธ๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ๐˜ญ-๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ต, ๐˜ธ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ฉ ๐˜ธ๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜ด ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ ๐˜ฎ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ด ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฑ๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ข ๐˜ค๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ง๐˜ช๐˜จ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ญ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฌ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ ๐˜ข ๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜บ ๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ. ๐˜ž๐˜ข๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ธ๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ ๐˜ธ๐˜ข๐˜ด? ๐˜๐˜ง ๐˜ด๐˜ฐ, ๐˜ธ๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ ๐˜ธ๐˜ข๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ธ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฎ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ ๐˜จ๐˜ข๐˜ป๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ, ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ธ๐˜ฉ๐˜บ?”

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 Mayโ€™s submissions wasย burning effigies: stories centred around cults and sects both old and new, folk horror about ancient gods, paganism, & rituals, or similar horror stories along these lines. Our fifth month kicks off tonight with Samuel M. Hallamโ€™s โ€œAll Hail the Coral Queen!โ€ a classic tale of dangers lurking in uncharted waters, and of creepy island cults and their sinister machinations. 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


All around me, alarms blared and the ship swayed violently as waves crashed against the side of the Artemis. We had sailed into unfamiliar waters, and it seemed as though Poseidon had taken it upon himself to curse us and this voyage. I ran through the corridors like a man possessed trying to find my beloved wife Sarah, calling out her name.
It was no good.
Between the alarms and the weather battering the Artemis, it would’ve been impossible to hear anyone shouting your name. The shipโ€™s engine had a blockage, and it was past the tipping point. Any minute now, it was going to blow and doom us all. I reached the engine room moments too late.
As I opened the engine room door, a fiery blast met me and sent me flying backwards. My body crashed into the unforgiving steel wall behind me and I blacked out, certain that any moment now, my inevitable end would come.

โ‚

Alas, my story didnโ€™t end there aboard the Artemis; instead, I found myself burned, scarred, yet somehow desperately clinging to life. I remember the GPS saying we were somewhere northwest of Puerto Rico, in what some call the Bermuda Triangle, but I couldnโ€™t say for certain where I was now. My throat was dry and itched like mad: I craved water. To make matters worse, the sunโ€™s rays beat down upon me, causing my wounds to bring me close to blacking out in agony.
Mercy came in a strange form. For what felt like a lifetime, I drifted on that piece of sheet metal, and all I can say for certain is that I eventually washed up on a remote island. This was no ordinary island, thoughโ€”with a sandy beach and a tropical jungle that would become my new home and help me recuperate from my injuriesโ€”such as I had imagined washing upon in my hazy dreams of the last few days.
No: all around me, the floor appeared to be made of coral. Surely this was impossible? Iโ€™m not a biologist, but I thought that coral grew beneath the waves, not on land. How could such a natural curiosity exist?
I looked down at my feet as I walked slowly over the coral underfoot, careful not to walk on anything that might’ve been hidden amongst the coral and may have poisoned me. As I wandered along, I thought I could hear something. It was like a soft singing, as though the coral was trying to communicate with me. I couldnโ€™t make out the words, just a soft tune playing as I ambled softly across the coast.
I continued my walk before my head began to feel light, and I struggled to stay upright. For the briefest of moments, I felt at peace, forgetting about my wounds and the chaos which had led me here. I stumbled and fell to the floor, my legs buckling underneath me, my body unable to walk any further. The coral was surprisingly soft and I lay on it, my eyes gradually drifting shut. As I did so, I thought I saw Sarah returning to me, walking across the coral. I whispered her name, thinking she had found me once more.

โ‚

I was awoken by a sharp jabbing in my stomach, triggering my earlier injuries; I realised I was no longer on the beach. Instead, I found myself surrounded by strangers. An elderly lady walked around me with a cane in her hand, her back crooked and her grey hair running down her spine. She circled and spoke in an unfamiliar tongue, and I struggled to understand what exactly she was saying. I had a feeling it concerned me.
I glanced around the room and could see it was well-lit, with walls covered in murals depicting a crowned figure looking over a tiny island. Was this where I was? If so, who was the woman gazing at the island, and why?
Slowly, I began to stand up as the elderly lady continued speaking until the room fell silent. Hundreds of eyes stared at me as if they were locked into position, unable to look away.
I moved towards the crowd and started looking for Sarah, pushing people aside while trying to find her. I knew she was here. She must have been hidden amongst the crowd. But wherever I looked, I couldnโ€™t see her. The crowd never once took their eyes off me, and I thought I could hear some of them whisper about me, but I couldnโ€™t understand what they were saying.
โ€˜CAN SOMEONE HELP ME?! Iโ€™M LOOKING FOR SARAH!โ€™ I cried out in a desperate plea, hoping that she would be in here somewhere. But I was met with blank faces and confused looks: nobody seemed to comprehend what I was saying. My wife was somewhere on this island and I needed her, needed to tell her I was alive and safe. But I couldnโ€™t see her in the mass of faces that surrounded me.
As I desperately ran around the room, I could feel hands clamping my arms and legs, restraining me. A sharp jolt ran through me as they touched my scars and burnt flesh, and I screamed out in pain. The elderly woman looked me right in the eye and shouted something to the others, before I felt myself being carried away, hands ceasing my arms and legs.

โ‚

For the next few days, I was imprisoned inside a hut made of wood, trapped in the darkness; virtually no light entered the room. My wrists were bound by vines, wrapped tightly around me and tied to the wall behind, holding them above my head.
.Every few hours, a woman came and fed and watered me, kept me clinging to life. I knew it was her. She was the only one who would show me kindness in such a cruel world.
โ€˜Help me, Sarah,โ€™ I pleaded with her, hoping she would save me from the anguish I was in.
But instead of releasing me, Sarah stared at me blankly as though I was an alien being speaking in a foreign tongue. I hoped she could see the pain in my face and sense my desire to be free from this imprisonment.

โ‚

I have no idea how long I languished in such torture; the mental torment of being trapped here, combined with the physical pain of my arms being held in such an unnatural way for so long, was slowly destroying me.
โ€˜Either kill me or let me go, please!โ€™ I pleaded with her, on the verge of tears, but it was no use. For some reason, Sarah didnโ€™t understand me, and just fed me, gave me a bit of water, and left me there. For so long, I simply remained there: unable to leave, unable to die.
At night, I could hear the coral song, louder now; the words floated into my ears.
โ€˜Beneath the waves, she waits
Guarding all that she creates
The silent protector
The guardian of the coral
She is our Queen
We are her servants
Soon she will rise
And claim her prize.โ€™
I couldnโ€™t quite understand what the song was referring to. Who was the โ€œsilent protectorโ€ and โ€œQueenโ€ the coral spoke of?

โ‚

After languishing for what felt like an eternity in my own personal prison, Sarah eventually freed me.
She untied my wrists and handed me a bowl containing a bubbling pink broth. She gestured for me to drink it. I looked at the broth again and my stomach churned, a wave of nausea overcame me at this prospect. Sarah gestured again for me to drink it andโ€”hoping it would lead to my own freedomโ€”I parted my lips and poured.
The broth tasted surprisingly sweet, and I swallowed mouthful after mouthful, disappointed when there was nothing left.
She looked me in the eye and smiled.
A strange feeling began to course right through me. Firstly, my leg muscles began to contract and expand, but I hadnโ€™t told them to. Then my stomach did the same, the feeling rising through my torso, stretching into my arms. My body was no longer mine; something was controlling me.
Sarah grabbed my left hand, helped me stand, and led me out of the door.
It was nighttime, and above us, a star-lit sky, the moon full: something which astounded me. How long had it been since I last saw the stars, let alone the moon?
She led me back to the coral beach where Iโ€™d washed up so long ago, and I could hear that song again. It was the same melody which the coral had seemed to be singing when I first arrived, but now I could hear the words again;
โ€˜Beneath the waves, she waits
Guarding all she creates
The silent protector
The guardian of the Coral Isle
She watches over this sacred land
Ready to fight
Come day or night
The Coral Queen is coming.โ€™
As we walked to the shore, there appeared to be a gathering of people, their eyes locked on me. They were all wearing headdresses of bright and vibrant colours, illuminated by the moonlight.
Two men stood behind large drums and slowly began to hammer out a steady beat as the elderly woman who poked me in the temple so long ago started to chant and shout, her voice louder than the drums.
Sarah led me to a plinth and bound my legs and arms behind me to a wooden pole as I stared out into the wide-open sea. In my mind, I tried to fight her off, but physically I was unable; my body was no longer my own.
At first, I saw nothing, and watched the waves gently lap and crash over each other. I could still hear the steady beat of the drums and the old womanโ€™s chanting, my mind unable to understand what she was saying.
Then I saw something begin to emerge.
The Coral Queen was coming for me!
All other thoughts were brushed from my mind as I saw her majesty begin to emerge from beneath the waves. She was a giant: a living, breathing deity made entirely of coral. Oh, to behold such a glorious sight!
Atop her head, the Queen wore a crown made of swaying coral in shades of every colour known to humanity; her eyes were like two giant white pearls, and she resembled a huge humanoid woman covered from head to toe in living breathing coral. She rose through the waves and began to walk up the beach towards me.
Part of me wanted to flee, to run further inland, away from the beach, away from the Queen. But I was still bound to the post, and my body was still possessed by that unknown substance. I watched as the Queen bent down and came in for closer inspection.
โ€˜UHU, ALA, KLEE!โ€™ the Coral Queen declared, her voice echoing across the island. With one of her great hands, she scooped me up and raised me high into the air.
โ€˜Take me, my Queen! I am ready!โ€™ I declared. Held high above the island, I see it all now. I realise my purpose: I am the willing sacrifice! Take me, Your Majesty!
She lowered me into her gaping maw, and with my final breaths, I exclaimed:
โ€˜ALL HAIL THE CORAL QUEEN!โ€™


About the Author

SAMUEL M. HALLAM is originally from Lincolnshire, UK, and is a big fan of horror, mysteries, and science fiction. Sam is a keen historian who loves to explore various eras, but mostly the Cold War.
His debut novel, Haunted Souls, is due for release in 2022, and he is currently working on Have You Seen This Martian?, a sci-fi tale, and Weathering the Storm, a folk horror novella. You can find him on Instagram @Still_Reading_Sam. He also runs a book club supporting indie horror on Instagram: @TheIndieHorrorBookClub.


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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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