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The Theatre Phantasmagoriaโ€”Lakeland, by Marisca Pichette

“๐˜‰๐˜ช๐˜ณ๐˜ฅ๐˜ด ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ด๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ง๐˜บ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ, ๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ด ๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ข๐˜ฑ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฆ๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ. ๐˜•๐˜ฐ, ๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ ๐˜ข ๐˜ฅ๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ณ๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ต ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜จ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ง๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ด ๐˜ธ๐˜ช๐˜ญ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ด, ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ญ๐˜บ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ญ ๐˜ข๐˜ฃ๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ด๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ฆ ๐˜ถ๐˜ด.
๐˜ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ ๐˜ธ๐˜ช๐˜ญ๐˜ญ ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฐ๐˜ต ๐˜ง๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ถ๐˜ด ๐˜ฉ๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ. ๐˜“๐˜ฐ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฌ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ถ๐˜ด, ๐˜บ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ ๐˜ธ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏโ€™๐˜ต ๐˜ง๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ถ๐˜ด ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ญ. ๐˜œ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ญ ๐˜ช๐˜ตโ€™๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ๐˜ฐ ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ฆ.
๐˜ ๐˜ข๐˜ฎ ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฐ๐˜ต ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ญ๐˜บ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฐ๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ด ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ง๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜ด ๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ.”

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 (or more) 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 sometime in 2023, showcasing all of the original works that debut here at the Night Terror Novels website throughout the year. If you’re an author yourself and this has piqued your interest, please find details regarding the flash fiction theme for our latest submission window here.

The theme for Septemberโ€™s submissions wasย โ€œChem Trails, Crop Circles, & Cryptidsโ€: stories about aliens and extraterrestrials, UFOs, or tales inspired by other conspiracy and fringe theories, urban legends, and folklore. We entered the ninth month of our Theatreโ€™s offerings last Friday with โ€œThe Bird, Frozen in Timeโ€, Drew Huffโ€™s story of an immortal, irradiated bird and the way the truth can be twisted to suit our own narratives. Tonight, Marisca Pichette offers up a striking and thoroughly unnerving slice of cryptid-themed terror with โ€œLakelandโ€, in which even the most serene of settings conceal hidden and unusual dangers. 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

You might think thereโ€™s no way to survive, in a landscape of exposure. Scrub grasses, icy tarns, bare rocks only fit for lichens. What could live in this barren world? And what could it possibly eat?
Birds are dissatisfying, rodents unappetising. No, here in a district regarded for its wilderness, there is only one meal able to sate us.
You will not find us hunting. Looking at us, you wonโ€™t find us at all. Until itโ€™s too late.
I am not the only thing that moves in the fells unseen. Lingering under too-still waters, my view ripples across grasses and rocks. From my position I can see across the rugged peaks, out to the gaping edge that claims all failures. This privileged spot contributes to my success. I never lose a catch.
Mist gathers along the ground and the banks of my tarn. And there, I see them.
Clods creeping on rooted legs, spindly white. Some no larger than pollywogs, some the size of quail eggs. Some masquerading as hares, twin tufts of heather pretending at ears. They creep and roll and dig in the earth, and after ages of watching, I know what they prefer.
Rain is no issue for them, slickening their roots so they can slide away from the rabbit holes they cover, take advantage of the mist to twist and break an ankle.
They come in all kinds of weather: our prey. Resting under the gently lapping waters, I feel them. Boots strike soil. Clods settle into place next to rocks and holes and roots. As one, we wait.
Weโ€™re not in direct competition. Each of us plays to our strengths, here at the base of the sky.
A solitary hiker, poles gripped in hands slick with moisture. Red jacket like a streak of blood in the mist. They cross the fell confidently, ignorantly.
A clod shifts, exposing a depression that wasnโ€™t there before. The hikerโ€™s foot catches. Their voice croaks briefly, stifled by heavy clouds. Earth rises before they can right themselves, climbing their leg and filling their face with choking mud.
Wet and cold and alone the clodsโ€™ prey sinks under a herd of hungry grass. A soft mound marks the place they were.
I spin lazily under my surface, waiting for the next one. The clods catch the most. Their tactics are simple, instinctual.
I ignore my closest neighbours most of the time, look to their hunting for entertainment the rest. On clear days they are almost inert.
With no sign of another hiker, I swim to the other side of the tarn and watch the rocks.
The rocks donโ€™t lie in wait like the clods. They are listening. Still until voices, still until footsteps. Ambush predation is the nature of granite and shale.
I rarely see their victims. Watching under the water, I see only the hunters: leaping down the fell, cracking from bedrock to roll into action. Filtered by icy water I hear distant screams, drawn out or cut short. I feel, deep in the muddy bottom of my home, the satisfaction of a successful kill.
Rain passes, wind whips. Some rocks detach themselves, but if they hit true, the storm absorbs the sound.
As the day fades into afternoon, the sun sheds glorious light on my waters. I warm, anticipation tingling through my body. Now is the time I hunt.
My tarn glistens brilliant, reflecting the sky. My ripples promise relief. My banks invite rest.
Sometimes thereโ€™s just one who stops, sitting down to gaze across the surface. Sometimes a group. I rarely manage to catch more than a couple. But one is all I need to sustain me for a year.
Boots grind against gravel. I hold still as they stop, set down all they carry. When they bend to remove their shoes, Iโ€™ve already won.
Toes grip mud. Fingers tickle the warmer waves at the edge. Hunger stirs my core.
I wait until the hiker leans close and tastes my tarn, regarding their face in its pristine reflection. They donโ€™t feel my fingers sliding through the mud to circle their feet. Iโ€™ve had an age to perfect my attack.
When they see me at last, eyes on the other side of the water, they rarely scream. Shock breeds silence. This one tries, their mouth opening wide as the clodsโ€™ pits. The sound is quickly stifled with a splash.
I drag them down, kicking. I drag them down, flailing. I drag them down, down, limp and cooling, to the bottom. There, I feast until Iโ€™m full. What of them remains then I plant in the mud, covering their body with rocks that hunt no more and clods past their prime.
We share what we donโ€™t eatโ€”the rocks, the clods, and I. Our ecosystem would not endure otherwise.
And can you not sayโ€”looking on us, and the world we have made over so many of your bonesโ€”that we are beautiful?

About the Author

MARISCA PICHETTE collects monsters. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Fireside Magazine, PseudoPod, and PodCastle, among others. Her speculative poetry collection, Rivers in Your Skin, Sirens in Your Hair, is forthcoming from Android Press in Spring 2023. Find her on Twitter as @MariscaPichette and Instagram as @marisca_write.

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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.

2 replies on “The Theatre Phantasmagoriaโ€”Lakeland, by Marisca Pichette”

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