Shadowridge Press titles in detail...
Trade paperback / 6 x 9 / 262 pages / Publication date / Feb 2017
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Following the debut of the highly-acclaimed collection, The Dark Country, Etchison followed with RED DREAMS, his seminal collection that redefined the short story in modern horror. From desert highways to dark urban landscapes, Etchison weaves a world of unlimited imagination. Published as a limited-edition hardcover in 1984, this collection of dark fantasy tales is again available, in a new “definitive” edition.
The Stories- Talking in the Dark / Wet Season / I Can Hear the Dark / The Graveyard Blues / On the Pike / Keeper of the Light / Black Sun / White Moon Rising / The Chill / The Smell of Death / Drop City / The Chair/ Not From Around Here
HERE'S A PREVIEW FROM RED DREAMS
THE GRAVEYARD BLUES
He sat amid tall grass, shivering in the sun, waiting for a dream to come. But it was no use. He stretched onto one side and squinted through the comber of chickweed, running his fingers over the nearest blade; it was rough when you rubbed it one way, smooth the other. Patches of grass bent to the ground where he had trampled it coming, and all of it was davened slightly by a wind that had come and gone silently before him. The tops of the markers paved a solid granite band in the air above the grass line, and as he followed the slate-gray row with his eyes then he saw them, the dark, misshapen figures hunched one against the other, making their way down the hillock at the far side of the cemetery.
There were two of them and they were wrapped around in bolts of a stiff cloth that cast sawtoothed shadows over the untended ground. They came to the stones and the larger one felt a way for the other, the ratchet edge of her skirt jerking ahead unsteadily around heavy, unseen shoes.
He stood above the warp of the grass, staring blankly at their progress as the wind came up again and a bird, conspicuous by its absence, quieted somewhere in the papery trees.
He could not take his eyes from them as they felt around the graves, tapping spasmodically, feeling, feeling. He heard the rough swishing sound of their garments; once he thought they had found it—they spread their hands in a crooked circle in the air over a headstone, only to break the circle as soon as their bodies closed to the plot—but it was not the one and they pressed restlessly on.
When they found the site they fell upon it, but slowly, twisted leaves settling to earth. He saw knotted hands buckle and extend like unnatural insects on the face of the granite. He saw the hands become smooth and sleek as praying mantises then, sentient hands, quick, delicate ten¬drils, antennae, to measure inscriptions with caliper preci¬sion, scanning with eye stalk fingers, gesturing faster, seeking to tap wrists, tug clothing, bend together in sight¬less discovery.
And, suddenly, the memory of another Saturday: six years old and wakened by a smell, the Cream of Wheat he never liked, filtering under the door to his room and a dream fresh as a new bruise inside his head. No one asked, of course, not yet, not Mama or Daddy and not Vin when he crooned Could Mars-ton come out to play today? at the back screen. But he asked himself about it, over and over during breakfast and the tentative beginnings of play by the black walnut trees in the lot, answers that were indis¬tinguishable from questions fading in and fading out on the dim backdrop of his inexperience like the unreadable words of advice that floated up on the underside of his Magic 8-Ball when he shook it and waited for the cloudy ink to clear. The dream: he had stolen a Radio Flyer wagon from Vin's double garage, had compounded the sin by hiding it under twiggy mulch at the edge of the graveyard where he was forbidden to play. Noon came and Vin was called home for lunch, untold. Then, scuffling over unearthed roots, a stripped bamboo stick for a sword in his jeans loop, about to be called in for soup and sandwich himself, Marston felt a need to run after Vin, tell him, apologize for the transgression. But how stupid Vin would think him, and Vin's mother and sister Nancy; they would cour¬teously ignore him as always, reaching over his head to stack dishes or retrieve the wash from the service porch sink. How were you supposed to apologize for a dream? Mama talked with Uncle Ralph and Uncle Harold after supper sometimes about something like that, he knew, and he heard them in the driveway, through the kitchen win¬dow, and Daddy had had to meet over the dining room table with a man he was sure Daddy had never seen before about something like that, and silly Aunt Frances still brooded with Mama in the hall about Eddie Who Had Been In The War and when was he going to come over and make up for the way he had cursed her at Dentoni's? and Mama had told her Hush, it was only a dream, and Aunt Frances had said What do you mean, only a dream? You know what's right and wrong, Mabel, and Mama had said You know better than that, Fran, in that righteous way of hers, You know it doesn't work both ways, it never has and Marston had known that that had something to do with it, too. So that when Mama finally called for him out the back door, and he did not answer because he couldn't yet, because he had not told Vin, which he couldn't do, he ran—not to the back door and not across the street to Vin's but away from both, lighting out across town in what turned out to be the direction of the Plunge; and then the rest of it. And he felt something close to that now, here at the edge of the graveyard: he wanted to leave, to go back, something was not right and what he saw upset him, and yet he could not go, not yet, fascinated as he was by the sight of the two mysterious figures hugging a tombstone, something he had not seen or ever even dreamed of before.
And so he ran away from both choices, not toward home and not across the cemetery. He headed off across town in a direction he did not want to have to think about.
"Ol' Marston's got the graveyard blues again," said Joseph when they came into the kitchen.
"Marston," said Mama.
She did not glance up from the fryers on the drainboard but continued to lay out the cut-up pieces, gazing at them as if they were somehow objects of pity. The smell of burnt pinfeathers lingered.
"Here, now, you gave your…" mama such a scare, Grandma almost said, but he was no longer a child, though she still spoke of his "going out to play" when he left the house to go into the arbor or to tend the bantams, to sit next to the coops. "You are hungry?" asked Grandma.
"What a question, Karen," said Joseph.
"I…hope you're not planning to go out tonight," said Mama, not turning.
"Your mama wants to talk to you," said Grandma. "Here, a piece of French twist with butter. Go and sit now."
"Oh, Mama," said his mother.
"Mabel, Mabel," said Joseph in his loud voice, which always seemed out of place in the breakfast nook, "don't hover over the boy, will you? For God's sake. Right, Marty?"
"I'm not going anyplace," offered Marston.
Later, after supper, dishes more or less done and drying on the white tiles and Marston tipped back against the wall in his chair, his ear next to the radio on the telephone stand, Mama hung up her apron and left the kitchen. That surprised him. He leaned forward to the table and listened to her footsteps leaving the kitchen linoleum, onto the carpet in the hall, the floor heater grille screaking when she walked on it, the voices from the dining room louder, then muffled again as the door swung shut after her, pulling a thin cloud of cigar smoke in around him.
He did not hear her coming back down the hall, only the sudden flurry of low conversation as the door swung open again.
Mama, wielding a heavy, oversized book, squeezed into a chair on the other side of the table. She positioned the book on the tablecloth. It looked to be an old heirloom. She smoothed her hands, reddened from the sink, over the padded cover, at the same time studying her son's face until he could no longer avoid looking back.
"How much longer is it till your birthday? Marston, can you tell me?"
"Oh, you know, Mama."
"I want you to tell me," she said.
He could not read her expression. At least she was not angry in that way that made him ashamed. "I'm gonna be sixteen day after tomorrow. Monday," he said, a little proudly, and felt a little embarrassed about it. To change the subject he tried, "Is that Grandma's Bible?"
Her eyes focused through him. "Something like that," she answered. "And I'm not being sacrilegious." She considered opening the book. "Sixteen years old. Al¬ready," she said softly; and he realized the subject had not changed after all.
He sat straight, feeling tall, and tried to talk to her in a matter-of-fact way. "What book is it?" he said, pushing grains of salt into the white tablecloth. "Mama?" he added, and then realized that his voice had cracked and that it was no use.
He folded his hands and waited.