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Darker Terrors

Neil Gaiman



  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Praise for the DARK TERRORS series

  More Tomorrow

  I’ve Come to Talk With You Again

  A Really Game Boy

  To This Water (Johnstown, Pennsylvania 1889)

  The Museum on Cyclops Avenue

  Free Dirt

  Self-Made Man

  The Wedding Present

  Family History

  Inside the Cackle Factory

  At Home in the Pubs of Old London

  Barking Sands

  Destroyer of Worlds

  The Retrospective

  The Two Sams


  I: Index by Contributor

  Praise for the DARK TERRORS series

  ‘Very creepy stuff!’

  —John Landis, director of American Werewolf in London and Michael Jackson’s Thriller

  ‘The only game in town when it comes to original, non-themed horror anthologies.’

  —Ellen Datlow

  ‘Represents the apex for original anthologies’


  ‘Kick-ass modern classics…an essential, original series.’

  —Time Out

  ‘The true home of the best in current horror fiction’


  ‘Leads the field’


  ‘A top-notch gathering of spooky talent’

  —The Dark Side

  ‘The only showcase for new horror’


  ‘The home to a disproportionate amount of the best new horror fiction.’

  —Science Fiction Chronicle

  ‘The best and the brightest in the field today’

  —Horror Online

  ‘Subtle, powerful and ingenious’

  —City Life

  ‘What comes over clearly is just how suited to life in contemporary Britain the horror story really is’




  Edited by



  Darker Terrors

  This compilation and editorial material copyright © Stephen Jones and David A. Sutton 2015.

  Cover art copyright © Les Edwards 2014.

  All rights reserved by Stephen Jones and David A. Sutton. The right of Stephen Jones and David A. Sutton to be identified as the Authors of this Work has been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the authors’ imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


  Special thanks to Simon Marshall-Jones, John Oakey, Val and Les Edwards, Peter Coleborn, Susan Ellison, James R. Wagner and, of course, the incomparable Jo Fletcher.

  ‘Foreword’ copyright © Stephen Jones 2015.

  ‘More Tomorrow’ copyright © Michael Marshall Smith 1995. Originally published in Dark Terrors: The Gollancz Book of Horror. Reprinted by permission of the author.

  ‘I’ve Come to Talk to You Again’ copyright © Karl Edward Wagner 1995. Originally published in Dark Terrors: The Gollancz Book of Horror. Reprinted by permission of The Karl Edward Wagner Literary Group.

  ‘A Really Game Boy’ copyright © Brian Lumley 1996. Originally published in Dark Terrors 2: The Gollancz Book of Horror. Reprinted by permission of the author.

  ‘To This Water (Johnstown, Pennsylvania 1889)’ copyright © Caitlín R. Kiernan 1996. Originally published in Dark Terrors 2: The Gollancz Book of Horror. Reprinted by permission of the author.

  ‘The Museum on Cyclops Avenue’ by Harlan Ellison®. Copyright © The Kilimanjaro Corporation 1995. Originally published in Harlan Ellison’s Dream Corridor, Issue Five, August 1995. Reprinted by arrangement with, and permission of, the author and the author’s agent, Richard Curtis Associates, Inc., New York. All rights reserved. Harlan Ellison® is a registered trademark of the Kilimanjaro Corporation.

  ‘Free Dirt’ copyright © Ray Bradbury 1996. Originally published in American Way, Volume 29, Number 20, October 15, 1996. Reprinted by permission of the author’s estate and agent.

  ‘Self-Made Man’ copyright © Poppy Z. Brite 1997. Originally published in Dark Terrors 3: The Gollancz Book of Horror. Reprinted by permission of the author.

  ‘The Wedding Present’ copyright © Neil Gaiman 1998. Originally published in Dark Terrors 4: The Gollancz Book of Horror. Reprinted by permission of the author and his agent.

  ‘Family History’ copyright © Stephen Baxter 1998. Originally published in Dark Terrors 4: The Gollancz Book of Horror. Reprinted by permission of the author.

  ‘Inside the Cackle Factory’ copyright © Dennis Etchison 1998. Originally published in Dark Terrors 4: The Gollancz Book of Horror. Reprinted by permission of the author.

  ‘My Pathology’ copyright © Lisa Tuttle 1998. Originally published in Dark Terrors 4: The Gollancz Book of Horror. Reprinted by permission of the author.

  ‘At Home in the Pubs of Old London’ copyright © Christopher Fowler 2000. Originally published in Dark Terrors 5: The Gollancz Book of Horror. Reprinted by permission of the author.

  ‘Barking Sands’ copyright © Richard Christian Matheson 2000. Originally published in Dark Terrors 5: The Gollancz Book of Horror. Reprinted by permission of the author.

  ‘Destroyer of Worlds’ copyright © Gwyneth Jones 2000. Originally published in Dark Terrors 5: The Gollancz Book of Horror. Reprinted by permission of the author.

  ‘The Retrospective’ copyright © Ramsey Campbell 2002. Originally published in Dark Terrors 6: The Gollancz Book of Horror. Reprinted by permission of the author.

  ‘The Two Sams’ copyright © Glen Hirshberg 2002. Originally published in Dark Terrors 6: The Gollancz Book of Horror. Reprinted by permission of the author. ‘You Are My Sunshine’ written by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell, copyright © Peer International Corporation 1940. Copyright renewed. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

  ‘The Prospect Cards’ copyright © Donald Tumasonis 2002. Originally published in Dark Terrors 6: The Gollancz Book of Horror. Reprinted by permission of the author.

  ‘Afterword’ copyright © David A. Sutton 2015.

  ‘Index to Dark Terrors: The Gollancz Book of Horror Volumes #1-6 (1995-2002)’ copyright © Stephen Jones and David A. Sutton 2015.

  For Johnny Mains,

  who ignited the spark.



  AM VERY proud of the six volumes of Dark Terrors that David Sutton and I produced between 1995 and 2002.

  The series grew directly out of another anthology series that we had edited together – Dark Voices: The Pan Book of Horror. Following on from my reboot “Best of” anthology, Pan Books had offered us the opportunity to take over this British horror icon – albeit under a title we weren’t happy with, along with a new numbering system. Despite that, between 1990 and 1994, we compiled five paperback volumes under the aegis of three different in-house editors before the title was unceremoniously dumped.

  However, by that time our middle – and longest-serving – editor at Pan, Jo Fletcher, had moved on to the prestigious Gollancz genre list, and she immediately decided to commission a series of origi
nal horror anthologies along similar lines, although this time to be initially published in hardcover. And thus, Dark Terrors: The Gollancz Book of Horror was born.

  And the connections didn’t end there. We carried over two series, by

  Kim Newman and C. Bruce Hunter, from the Pan volumes, along with several of what now can be regarded as our “established” contributors.


  These “regulars” included Ramsey Campbell, Christopher Fowler, Graham Masterton, Kim Newman, Nicholas Royle, Michael Marshall Smith and Conrad Williams from the UK, and Dennis Etchison, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Richard Christian Matheson and David J. Schow from America.

  We were also lucky enough to feature the occasional contribution from a Big Name Writer like Clive Barker, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Neil Gaiman, Tanith Lee, Brian Lumley, Julian Rathbone, Peter Straub, Thomas Tessier, Karl Edward Wagner, Gahan Wilson and Hollywood director Mick Garris, and we also helped further the careers of such (at the time) relative newcomers as Gemma Files, Charles A. Gramlich, Glen Hirshberg, Brian Hodge, Jay Lake, Terry Lamsley, Tim Lebbon, Lisa Morton, Jeff VanderMeer and James Van Pelt, to name only a few.

  In short, Dark Terrors did exactly what any non-themed horror anthology series should do – it balanced out it contents between providing a showcase for established writers and giving a professional market to newer names, while also striving to entertain a loyal readership.

  The reviews were great, but the book never sold in the numbers it should have. After the first four volumes, the writing was on the wall. However, to Gollancz’s credit, they did everything they could to keep it going.

  This included the somewhat perplexing decision to turn the final two books into “double” volumes. David and I agreed to go along with their plan in an attempt to save the series but, unfortunately, sales remained level. As Gollancz was essentially paying twice as much for what was, basically, the same book, it was obviously an unsustainable situation; and when we were forced to use one of the ugliest covers I’ve ever had on any book for the sixth volume, it came as no surprise to anyone when the series was cancelled.

  In the end, Dark Terrors lasted exactly the same number of volumes that the earlier Dark Voices had. But it allowed us to present some terrific stories during the seven years it was published, and it provided.a paying market during a period when times were tough – when aren’t they? – for writers of short horror fiction on both sides of the Atlantic. Which brings us to this present volume. Darker Terrors is not really

  a “Best of”, but more a representative “sampler” of the type of stories we published over those six volumes.

  When Simon Marshall-Jones of Spectral Press suggested that we compile this new volume, David and I obviously had a wealth of material to draw upon. As much as we would have dearly loved to have included certain authors or specific stories, in the end we decided to balance our choices between the different volumes to give the new reader a “taste” of what the series was about. In fact, it was a surprisingly simple process – after all, the two of us have been working together now for nearly forty years – and although the table of contents might not be what either of us would have gone with had we been putting this book together on our own, it is certainly representative of how we work together as an editorial team.

  So, if you were a reader of Dark Terrors back in the day, then we hope you will enjoy revisiting the seventeen exemplary stories presented here once again for your entertainment; and if you are new to the series, then we trust you will be as equally blown away by them as we were back when we first read them.

  And, if this retrospective volume is a success, then who knows where it may lead …?

  —Stephen Jones

  April, 2015

  More Tomorrow


  I GOT A new job a couple of weeks ago. It’s pretty much the same as my old job, but at a nicer company. What I do is trouble-shoot computers and their software – and yes, I know that sounds dull. People tell me so all the time. Not in words, exactly, but in their glassy smiles and their awkward ‘let’s be nice to the geek’ demeanour.

  It’s a strange phenomenon, the whole ‘computer people are losers’ mentality. All round the world, at desks in every office and every building, people are using computers. Day in, day out. Every now and then, these machines go wrong. They’re bound to: they’re complex systems, like a human body, or society. When someone gets hurt, you call in a doctor. When a riot breaks out, it’s the police that – for once – you want to see on your doorstep. It’s their job to sort it out. Similarly, if your word processor starts dumping files or your hard disk goes non-linear, it’s someone like me you need. Someone who actually understands the magic box which sits on your desk, and can make it all lovely again.

  But do we get any thanks, any kudos for being the emergency services of the late twentieth century?

  Do we fuck.

  I can understand this to a degree. There are enough hard-line nerds and social zero geeks around to make it seem like a losing way of life. But there are plenty of pretty basic earthlings doing all the other jobs too, and no one expects them to turn up for work in a pin-wheel hat and a T-shirt saying PROGRAMMERS DO IT RECURSIVELY. For the record, I play reasonable blues guitar, I’ve been out with a girl and have worked undercover for the CIA. The last bit isn’t true, of course, but you get the general idea.

  Up until recently I worked for a computer company, which I’ll admit was full of very perfunctory human beings. When people started passing around jokes which were written in C++, I decided it was time to move on. One of the advantages of knowing about computers is that unemployment isn’t going to be a problem until the damn things start fixing themselves, and so I called a few contacts, posted a new CV up on my web site and within twenty four hours had four opportunities to chose from. Most of them were other computer businesses, which I was kind of keen to avoid, and in the end I decided to have a crack at a company called the VCA. I put on my pin-wheel hat, rubbed pizza on my shirt, and strolled along for an interview.

  The VCA, it transpired, was a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting effective business communication. The suave but shifty chief executive who interviewed me seemed a little vague as to what this actually entailed, and in the end I let it go. The company was situated in tidy new offices right in the centre of town, and seemed to be doing good trade at whatever it was they did. The reason they needed someone like me was they wanted to upgrade their system – computers, software and all. It was a months’ contract work, at a very decent rate, and I said yes without a second thought.

  Morehead, the guy in charge, took me for a gloating tour round the office. It looked the same as they always do, only emptier, because everyone was out at lunch. Then I settled down with their spreadsheet-basher to go find out what kind of system they could afford. His name was Cremmer, and he wasn’t out at lunch because he was clearly one of those people who see working nine-hour days as worthy of some form of admiration. Personally I view it as worthy of pity, at most. He seemed amiable enough, in a curly-haired, irritating sort of way, and within half an hour we’d thrashed out the necessary. I made some calls, arranged to come back in a few days, and spent the rest of the afternoon helping build a hospital in Rwanda. Well actually I spent it listening to loud music and catching up on my Internet newsgroups, but I could have done the other had I been so inclined.

  The Internet is one of those things that more and more people have heard of without having any real idea of what it means. It’s actually very simple. A while back a group of universities and government organisations experimented with a way of linking up all their computers so they could share resources, send little messages and play Star Trek games with each other. There was also a military connection, and the servers linked in such a way that the system could take a hit somewhere and re-route information accordingly. After a time this network started to take on a momentum of its own, with everyone from Pentagon heav
ies to pin-wheeling wireheads taking it upon themselves to find new ways of connecting things up and making more information available. Just about every major computer on the planet is now connected, and if you’ve got a modem and a phone line, you can get on there too. I can tell you can hardly wait.

  What you find when you’re there almost qualifies as a parallel universe. There are thousands of pieces of software, probably billions of text files by now. You can check the records of the New York Public Library, send a message to someone in Japan which will arrive within minutes, download a picture of the far side of Jupiter, and monitor how many cans of Dr Pepper there are in a soda machines in the computer science labs of American universities. A lot of this stuff is fairly chaotically organised, but there are a few systems which span the Net as a whole. One of these is the World Wide Web, a hypertext-based graphic system. Another is the newsgroups.

  There are about 40,000 of these groups now, covering anything from computers to fine art, science fiction to tastelessness, the books of Stephen King to quirky sexual preferences. If it’s not outright illegal, out there on the Infobahn people will be yakking about it twenty-four hours a day, every day of the year. Either that or posting images of it: there are paintings and animals, NASA archives and abstract art, and in the group you can find anything from close-up shots of road-kills to people with acid burns on their face. Not very nice, but trust me, it’s a minority interest. Now that I think of it, there is some illegal stuff (drugs, mainly) – there’s a system by which you can send untraceable and anonymous messages, though I’ve never bothered to check it out.

  Basically the newsgroups are the Internet for traditionalists – or people who want the news as it breaks. They’re little discussion centres that stick to their own specific topic, rather than wasting time with graphics and Java applets which play weird tunes at you until you go insane. People read each other’s messages and reply, or forward their own pronouncements or questions. Some groups are repositories of computer files, like software or pictures, others just have text messages. No one, however sad, could hope to keep abreast of all of them, and nor would you want to. I personally don’t give a toss about recent developments in Multilevel Marketing Businesses or the Nature of Chinchilla Farming in America Today, and have no interest in reading megabytes of losing burblings about them. So I, like most people, stick to a subset of the groups that carry stuff I’m interested in – Mac computers, guitar music, cats and the like.