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The Theatre Phantasmagoriaโ€”This Mad Dentition; His Grand, Conflagrant Dreams, by David Burchell

“๐˜›๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ: ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ค๐˜ฉ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ด ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ณ๐˜ช๐˜จ๐˜ฉ๐˜ต ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ๐˜ช๐˜ท๐˜ช๐˜ฅ๐˜ถ๐˜ข๐˜ญ ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ฆ๐˜ถ๐˜ฎ, ๐˜ง๐˜ข๐˜ด๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ข๐˜จ๐˜ข๐˜ช๐˜ฏ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ฎ๐˜ช๐˜ฎ๐˜ช๐˜ค ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฎ๐˜ถ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ, ๐˜ฎ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ณ๐˜บ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ญ๐˜ฅ. ๐˜ˆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜บ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ค๐˜ณ๐˜ช๐˜ฎ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ๐˜ง๐˜ถ๐˜ญ-๐˜จ๐˜ณ๐˜ข๐˜ฃ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฅ๐˜บ, ๐˜ธ๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ๐˜ญ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ธ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ญ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ข ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ข๐˜ช๐˜ฏ; ๐˜ฑ๐˜ช๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ด ๐˜ข๐˜ด ๐˜ง๐˜ช๐˜ฃ๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ด ๐˜ด๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ด ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ๐˜ธ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ด๐˜ฐ ๐˜ฎ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜บ ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ข๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ค๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ณ๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ๐˜บ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ๐˜จ๐˜ฆ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ, ๐˜ข ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ท๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฅ๐˜บ, ๐˜ข ๐˜ฉ๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ด๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ฆ๐˜ถ๐˜ฎ๐˜ดโ€”
๐˜ˆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜บ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ ๐˜ฌ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฑ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ถ๐˜ฑ ๐˜บ๐˜ฆ๐˜ต?”

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 July submission window here.

The theme for Mayโ€™s submissions was 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 launched with Samuel M. Hallamโ€™s โ€œAll Hail the Coral Queen!โ€ a classic tale of dangers lurking in uncharted waters; of island cults and their sinister machinations. May’s second story was brought to us by J. L. Royce; an unsettling tale of pandemic-laced dread and folk traditions called โ€œSing a Song of Seasonsโ€. Last week, Zary Fekete joined our lineup with โ€œDear Meโ€, an epistolary tale which blends together body image insecurities, diet fads, and ancient Egyptian magic. Tonight, author David Burchell returns to Night Terror Novels with โ€œThis Mad Dentition; His Grand, Conflagrant Dreamsโ€, a fantastical, wickedly dark offering of literary horror which brings to mind Clive Barker’s groundbreaking classic, โ€œIn the Hills, the Citiesโ€. 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

The pillars of the past we used as teeth: unblemished marble rows arranged along the architected top and bottom gums evenly, respectively constructed and categorically delegated to parallel their order: caninesโ€”wisdomsโ€”molars. Without plaque nor cavity nor entrenched deep down infection; around the clock weโ€™d squeak them clean, and if everโ€”oh, Tunt forbid if everโ€”a chip or crack or slight, for-the-most-part-unnoticeable abrasion were found, we did not remedy by filling in, glossing over, but did so by extricating said defunct tooth immediately, to be sent to the Basalt Dumps and replaced as soon as possible: within six hours, at the very utmost, from the moment the abnormality was discovered and catalogued. Two things that, bafflingly, corporate had required to be accomplished at the exact same time. And no matter the reason, be it undersight or over-, at the genesis or upon assembly or during their notably arduous transportation, before or in the thick of or even thereafter the long construction, for whomever was responsible (if not an entire sector, which was largely the resultant case) there were always repercussions.
Always a blameable someone.
And as righteous as it mightโ€™ve been, as communal such a concept was, not to snitch and rat and tattle on your fellow worker, said inevitable repercussions were of the type that one could not travel simply back from; it was do or die, and whether that latter of the 50/50โ€™s literal or metaphysical or beyond and none of the above Iโ€™ll leave to fend against the vultures of imagination, there on high and rightly circling, just waiting for the bone and viscera to drop.
With that wriggly little worm aside: if the pillars made up the teeth of whatever then-current project we were working on, that meant that the gums and tongue and lips were the inner and outer workings of what composed either vestibule or atrium: the open lips a vaulted entrywayโ€”the gums an obvious ceiling, an obscured floorโ€”tongue a red-carpet rug flattening out and slicking back and swallowing down.
Given the dimensional scale of bipedal bodies, one could imagine that, as large and as grandiose as these entry chambers were, the rest of these strange and ambitious constructions went immenser still: the head a coliseum worthy to crown the concussed peak of Mount Olympus, and the body may as well have been that mountain crownedโ€”in the lattermost days of one of our constructions, when almost everything was built, that was how these figures loomed above us, above this city and yet a part of this city both, stretching up and out from base to peak to grasp at just a single clutch of the leaving cosmos.
Why Iโ€”you might be wonderingโ€”find it important to consecrate emphasis on the fact that it was the pillars of the past we used as teeth is simply this: the creature buildings we manufacture now are far, far larger, more demanding. The pillars are no more apt for teeth than a lonely desert shrub fits to the devastations of an extinction-level crater. Make them slivers of hangnail flesh instead, an infinity of them, cross-stitched there and back until youโ€™ve got the completed skin of the titanic thingโ€”and even then, youโ€™ve only got the shell, and a whole lot of space with which to fill. The teeth: each in its own right an individual coliseum, fashioned again to mimic the muse, marry the mould. And any indiscriminate handful-grab of the body, well that would be a mountain; pillars as fibrous slivers sewn into so many mountains there and patched intricately together, a living body, a hundred thousand coliseumsโ€”
Are you keeping up yet?
Itโ€™s not that every building that makes a figure upโ€™s a coliseum, you knowโ€”surely such specificities are solely spoken to elucidate the scaleโ€”no, there are houses here as well: apartments and double-wides and even entire condominiums. Manors, too. And shoddy hovel places, the farther down you go, compacted into indistinct favelas beneath the weight of all the rest.
At first, with the earlier, more reasonable figures, these lower spaces were not originally designed with โ€œlivingโ€ in mind, more for structural stability, a foundational showcase that not only gestured at that potential future, but steeped right there within it, however shallow; the dream did not include those who, to begin with, helped to build it.
I remember when we, as kids, would watch them Sail, every year, on that very special day, watch them tug away unrestrained and strong and weightless, off between the skyward walls of those broken universes, that ugly chasm. Maybe some of us back then truly knew, held tight and felt it there wrenching deep within our hearts, our โ€˜what we thought we knew,โ€™ or maybe we truly didnโ€™t: too dazzled by the big bright lights to question their existence. The good most of us never longed for that, never wanted for much; save for maybe a roof under which to lay, healthy crops to sow and reap, a few little windows of time to pursue love and happiness and hobbyโ€”and, at least for a little while, well, we did.
Back when the lower living quarters were just for show.
Used to be that, for every yearโ€™s construction, thereโ€™d be a willing sponsor city: usually overt in their graciousness since the deal brought jobs and jobs and jobs, and plus they never took that much space up anyway, did they?โ€”the native critters and the native foliages would grow back, wouldnโ€™t they? What was a year or so, that small investment, what was that up against the good favour, nod, and recognition of the machine thatโ€™d been shitting and breathing since before any of us, from the babies to the elders, could rightly know?
Always it was โ€˜Tunt knows best,โ€™ a strange and age-old axiomatic kind of clemency that we would grant to the every move of industry, to each individual disaster, natural and unnatural alike.
And so when the switch was madeโ€”whenever that even was; it seemingly all increased so instantaneouslyโ€”the sponsor cities followed, the local governments passed through unanimous legislations, and the uninformed, which made up pretty much all of us back then, did damn near everything we could to remain that way, often citing our other dictates and mantras what succinctly boiled down to this: only those wont to proposition death may haggle with the status quo.
This was, of course, before we realized that death comes forth in many shapes and many sizes, and that the worst of them occur far, far, far before youโ€™re actually dead.
The pillars of the past we used as teeth. Except now they desolate us, crisscrossed in colossal cascades of sap and stone where used to stand our lands and homes, scorched and raked and harrowed to make not just ample but complete room for that yearโ€™s figureโ€”wait, no, just one of that yearโ€™s figures. The idea that each of them erected were a part of their respective sponsor cities was always just simply that: an idea or some buttery metaphor from the silver tongues and black eruditions of corporate philosophy.
Not now, though.
No, now they subsume us: excuse and invite us back in indomitably tired ranks: a game of shells and of diaspora, knowing full and all too well that there is nowhere we can go.
The sap has long since poured, coating what I imagine as the generous entirety of our cityโ€™s figure, and so all thatโ€™s leftโ€”before the Sail, that isโ€”is to light the goddamn thing: yet another mountain beacon in the long, long chain of them. They are doing that as we speak, right now; I do not presume to know this as some faint inductive reasoning, as some feeling that I may unempirically haveโ€”no, I know this because the firelight starts with us
because the world that they feigned as ours was never for us
because the tinder and kindling stones, right before our very eyes, well they always were us
because of course itโ€™s usโ€”
Whatโ€™s even stranger, though, and all the more damning for it, is perhaps this inclement realization, looking objectively back, that I had yet to see the worst of it. That, even now, in the blast furnace heat of the twisting thing, I have not nor likely ever will experience what those outside and below my circumstantial purview did. What they, right now, still do. And for that, my heart can never be the same.
Youโ€”oh, you whoโ€™d beg the details, you whoโ€™d demand our flags, chase after our words and names; likely to darkle a belletristic history with, for the accounting side of thingsโ€”yes, you get nothing.
Those things do not exist.
If I had to wager a guess, Iโ€™d bet weโ€™re flying now, off on our questing Sail toward great unknowns. Hard to tell through the fogs and fumes, the way it rages here at the very bottom. It would make sense, though. Given the deadlines for such great things.
I would guess that that is what we are:
Much too large and profound and ineffable.
Dreaming up through skies we never asked for.
Past clouds weโ€™ll never breach.
Flagships flown from fever.
I would guess us unexplainable, quite like the wonders they say weโ€™ll reach.
Thatโ€™s the thing, though.
No matter how they convinced us otherwise.
We always knew where we were heading.

About the Author

DAVID BURCHELL is a writer of both short- and long-form fiction, traversing the pages of new weird, literary horror, dark fantasy, the like and even there beyond it. He enjoys long falls through chasms, sinkholes, fissures, and from time to time moonlights as a clove of garlic in a rosary of them, hung from familiesโ€™ doors. Mostly, though, he writes; all that other stuffโ€™s a bit more demanding. You can stalk his shadow on Instagram @oldcataclysm.

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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,, or via Instagram or Twitter, @JDKAuthor.

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