What Are My Top 15 Horror Films?? — Derek Barton

Top 15 Horror

 

As a horror story writer, I do get this question put to me often.  I’m no expert on what makes a great film, but as a fan and a reader of horror fiction, I do know what makes me jump or gets under my skin.

One of the common elements I find in horror films is the overuse of “Jump Scares” — objects suddenly thrown, animals (especially cats for some reason) leaping for no reason out of the shadows or people appearing out of the thin air behind the main character.  “Jump Scares” as cheap and often detracting from the story in my opinion.  They can be done right, of course, like in the movie, Alien, when Dallas cannot find the creature supposedly right on him. He climbs down two steps of his ladder and there it is!

Another abused element is gore, especially in most of Rob Zombie’s films (fan of his music, not his movies!). Gore has its place — can you imagine the scene where Danny Torrance from The Shining rides alone on his Big Wheel then turns into the hallway with the mutilated twin girls without any blood or bodies? Wouldn’t have the same chilling effect. Yet if you constantly throw gore in my face I’m either going to get sickened or bored with it.

When I watch a horror movie, I want to be fully immersed in the tension of the movie, on the edge of my seat as I react to the character actions, and holding my breath as I see something the hero/heroine doesn’t see in the background!

My list has some surprises, but being that I am a Stephen King fanatic, well…some films won’t surprise you. I didn’t list films that I consider horror/comedies — Shaun of the Dead and Dale and Tucker vs Evil being some of my ultimate favorites. I wanted to do a list of true, classic horror.

Listed in last place to best of the best:

15# Scream — A year after the murder of her mother, a teenage girl is terrorized by a new killer, who targets the girl and her friends by using horror films as part of a deadly game.

Not a completely great film, but I listed it due to its genre-expanding twists and the incredible performance by Drew Barrymore in the opening scene.

14# Don’t Breathe — Hoping to walk away with a massive fortune, a trio of thieves break into the house of a blind man who isn’t as helpless as he seems.

Very intense suspenseful film.  Sad that this was based on an actual similar account where the homeowner lured teenage thieves and waited for them with loaded guns in the shadows of his basement. Burglary sucks but no one deserves death sentences for it.

Eye Poster

13# The Eye — A blind girl gets a cornea transplant so that she would be able to see again. However, she got more than what she bargained for when she realized she could even see ghosts.

This isn’t the bland remake done with Jessica Alba. This is the original Chinese film.  I can still feel the hair on my arms rise when I think about the ghost floating behind the woman in the elevator.  *Shudder!

12# The Grudge — An American nurse living and working in Tokyo is exposed to a mysterious supernatural curse, one that locks a person in a powerful rage before claiming their life and spreading to another victim.

A film based in Tokyo and very well done! Superb acting and special effects that were unique (copied many times after!).  Used sound as extra way to horrify the audience — the groaning little boy was awesome!

Aut Poster

11# Autopsy of Jane Doe — A father and son, both coroners, are pulled into a complex mystery while attempting to identify the body of a young woman, who was apparently harboring dark secrets.

A really creepy twist to a witch story. Freaky effects and intense up close and personal with a gray corpse makes for a great horror story.  I rank this as one of Brian Cox’s best roles as the father.

10# Nightmare on Elm Street — The monstrous spirit of a slain janitor seeks revenge by invading the dreams of teenagers whose parents were responsible for his untimely death.

Another film that broke through the genre’s cliche barriers. Actually based on an urban legend from Japan, Wes Craven delivered an unforgettable villain!

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9# Evil Dead (2013) — Five friends head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods.

Yes, I have to say it, but I like the remake better than the original. Bruce Campbell is one of my favorite B-actors! So funny!! Yet, even the producers and writers of the films said that the remake was what they wanted to do with the original but just didn’t have the budget for and it came out pretty campy. Both have their place but overall this one was truly terrorizing and a better film. Viewer warning…a lot of gore in this one!

8# Saw — Two strangers, who awaken in a room with no recollection of how they got there, soon discover they’re pawns in a deadly game perpetrated by a notorious serial killer.

Many people don’t like this film due to the torture aspects of it, but I have a spot in my top list for it due to the fact that one of the stars, Leigh Whannell, actually wrote the screenplay.  Kind of inspiring when a writer gets such a great response from his own work…

Ghost Poster

7# Ghost Story —  Two generations of men find themselves haunted by the presence of a spectral woman. When the son of one of the elderly men returns to his hometown after his brother’s mysterious death, they attempt to unravel her story.  

Probably not many people remember this sleeper hit, but it is still a great thrill and an epic tale of hidden guilt and revenge.

A QP poster

6# A Quiet Place — In a post-apocalyptic world, a family is forced to live in silence while hiding from monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing.

Another inspiring horror story that was written by one of its stars, John Krasinski (from The Office fame).  He created such an elaborate and unique story that already clone-like films, The Bird Box and The Silence have tried to jump on the bandwagon. A sequel is in the works and I am very excited to see it!

5# Jaws — When a killer shark unleashes chaos on a beach community, it’s up to a local sheriff, a marine biologist, and an old seafarer to hunt the beast down.

If you haven’t heard of this film or seen it, then I say “welcome to America!” as you must’ve just come here! LOL.  All kidding aside, award-winning acting from Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw.  It has aged well and yet to be outdone by any recent shark-themed movies. (Although I will say that The Shallows was pretty damn good too for a modern twist.)

4# Alien — After a space merchant vessel perceives an unknown transmission as a distress call, its landing on the source moon finds one of the crew attacked by a mysterious lifeform, and they soon realize that its life cycle has merely begun.

While this is a sci-fi film it has such a horror foundation that it is essential to the list of great horror films. Plus Sigourney Weaver turned in a surprise breakthrough performance which she will always be remembered for.

3# IT — In the summer of 1989, a group of bullied kids band together to destroy a shape-shifting monster, which disguises itself as a clown and preys on the children of Derry, their small Maine town.

This was one of my all-time favorite books by Stephen King, but other than Tim Curry’s amazing performance as Pennywise in the television mini-series, it had not been done well up to this point.  Liked this version, but would have been phenomenal had Tim Curry been the clown.  Still a great rendition of King’s book.

2# The Thing — A research team in Antarctica is hunted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of its victims.

Seeing this film was like walking in a haunted house for two hours. Gruesome effects to bring out the best scares in this classic and a twist almost at every turn.  Even its ending is still controversial and debated about who was what. And this was by far to me the best performance of Kurt Russel’s career.

Shin Poster

1# The Shining — A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where a sinister presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from both past and future. 

An epic film filled with iconic scenes like an elevator filled with blood to an ax thrusting threw a door inches from someone’s face. Truly a great terrifying film. Stephen King didn’t like this version and while I understand his reasons, it is still a jaw-dropping film with incredible performances by Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall.  The upcoming sequel, Doctor Sleep, should be a great look back to the film and I’m excited that they got Ewan McGregor in the lead role as Danny Torrance!

 

Honorable Mentions:

Brightburn — What if a child from another world crash-landed on Earth, but instead of becoming a hero to mankind, he proved to be something far more sinister? (Aka. An Evil Superman)

The Ring — A journalist must investigate a mysterious videotape which seems to cause the death of anyone one week to the day after they view it. (Dorky story idea but really well told.)

Hereditary — After the family matriarch passes away, a grieving family is haunted by tragic and disturbing occurrences, and begin to unravel dark secrets. (Some pretty original traumatic scenes.  Bit of a slow-burner though…)

Mama — A young couple take in their two nieces only to suspect that a supernatural spirit named Mama has latched itself to their family. (The ending on this one killed it for me. Up to then, it was a great film!)

Pet Sematary — After tragedy strikes, a grieving father discovers an ancient burial ground behind his home with the power to raise the dead. (Recently gave you my opinion on this one!  Click here for that blog review of the recent two film versions).

Silent Hill — A woman, Rose, goes in search for her adopted daughter within the confines of a strange, desolate town called Silent Hill. (Great atmospheric horror film. What an incredible setting using a mining town that has been abandoned due to still burning fires below them?  Fog and ash drifting down…creatures leaping out from the smoke. Perfect fun!)

 

Movies I want to check out in the near future:

Us –– A family’s serene beach vacation turns to chaos when their doppelgängers appear and begin to terrorize them.

Bone Tomahawk — In the dying days of the old west, an elderly sheriff and his posse set out to rescue their town’s doctor from cannibalistic cave dwellers.

Crawl — A young woman, while attempting to save her father during a Category 5 hurricane, finds herself trapped in a flooding house and must fight for her life against alligators.

Are there better films than some of what I listed?  Maybe.  Sure probably. But it’s just my humble opinion and these were films that I remembered long after I had seen them. Some of the films just had one or two elements that I didn’t like that precluded them as well.  So, what I’m saying is, no nasty comments about what an idiot I am for forgetting such-an-such film.  I have my list, you can make yours! ha

NOW you have insight into what a horror story writer looks for when watching movies and reading books…and what we want to recapture in our own works!

THE THREE-YEAR RIDE! — Derek Barton

Anniv Blog

Three years ago, I created this blog and established my site and social media footprint in order to advertise my book and to give my fans a place to reach out to me.  This has been a crazy but fantastic ride!  So thankful to all of you who’ve come along as passengers on my little quest.

Here’s the growth from year one to now:

SUBSCRIBERS:

  • 2019 = 70 WordPress, 11 Email & 488 through Twitter & Facebook.
  • 2016 = 11 Email

VIEWS/VISITORS:

  • 2019 = 4,488 — 2016 = 1603 views
  • 2019 = 2,475 — 2016 = 659 visitors
  • 2019 = 61 — 2016 = 19 different countries

POSTS:

  • 2019 = this is the 115th post!! (26 so far this year)
  • 2016 = 37 posts

GIVEAWAYS:  18 Individual giveaways for Book, Audio, Amazon or Metal Bookmarkers!

 

As you know if you’ve been following my goal blogs, I use a bi-montly process that has actually been quite effective.  Here are the goals made and fulfilled from July, 2018 through June, 2019:

  • Complete the Audiobook for In Four Days. Now out on Amazon, Audible & Kindle! N4D Revamp 2018c
  • Create/organize this year’s 2018 Indie Fantasy Book Giveaway with several other independent authors. Was a decent success — this year’s increase in participation & what we are giving away is a nice testament to that!

2019 Indie Book Giveaway Ad

  • Find at least two places to do a book-signing appearance. Did four book signings but due to finances and low turnout I couldn’t justify doing more…but with several books released now, I will be on the prowl for another couple signing spots this year!  Would also like to get into one or two comic-cons, but cannot promise that due to having to usually register months in advance.
  • Finish editing for Elude #1 & #2.
  • Design the book cover for Elude #1 & #2.
  • Write the end of Elude #3.  Elude Ad 2019The entire series has been completed, book covers designed then redesigned, and soon to be released in audible format by the end of the first quarter next year!!
  • Send out Monthly Newsletters by 15th of the month.  I have been successful with this and plan on continuing.
  • Keep up The Hidden saga on the website every 2 weeks.  Accomplished this and have published the entire series on Amazon & Kindle!cover
  • Start my outline for Book #3 for the Wyvernshield Fantasy series. Still trying to get through this one. Coming up with the battle plans and the intricate plots is a whole lot more complicated than you’d expect! Plus, with this being the finale, I want to do better than “What-did-you-do-to-my-Game-of-Thrones?!”… UGH!!!GoT s8
  • Write up and prepare for writing in the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) Challenge in November — Book #3 will be my focus for NaNoWriMo! (50,000 word count goal!)  I participated in this last November, but my outline had too many holes so it only garnered 26,000 words… However, it’s a good start!
  • Craft a video book trailer for Consequences Within Chaos and The Bleeding Crown.  (Can you say strettcccchhhhh gooooaaalll???)  This will happen — but trying to make Wyvernshield #3 a priority right now.
  • Start another web saga?  May have to have a survey for which genre to pursue — fantasy or horror.  Decided to do a Dystopian/Fantasy saga:  Juxtaposed…  Now working on Chapter Four. JX CH 2
  • Thinking about setting up a service to other authors for possible book cover design.  Maybe…  I did get this off the ground and have had some success doing covers, editing & proofing for other writers. I plan on continuing this as the work has been sporadic and not too overwhelming so far.
  • Begin a four-part guest blog swap with fellow writer Adam Mitchell and complete a Blog Interview with him! (This will be my first ever blog swap and should be a lot of fun!)  This has been a success — our final and fourth blogs are due out this month.  Check out Adam’s here!  For my blogs, click here!

 

Thanks again to all of you for your continued help, support and following me along this bumpy road!  It has been the greatest adventure of my life!!

Anniv Blog v2

 

THE 2019 INDIE BOOK GIVEAWAY IS UPON US!! — Derek Barton

2019 Indie Book Giveaway Ad

HEY EVERYONE! IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN!! A SUPER-SIZED INDIE BOOK GIVEAWAY THIS YEAR!!

Check out these amazing eight authors giving away FREE EBOOKS — Doug Sanburn, T.D. Barton, Logan Fox, Susanne Lamdin, Nesa Miller, Andrea Cooper, Adam Mitchell, and Christy Mann!

ONE WINNER will have their choice of a $100 Amazon Gift Card or a Kindle Reader (pictured below!).

2019 Kindle Reader

It’s open for entry from July 5th to July 31st. You get “extra entries” by posting an ad on Facebook or sharing the ad or Tweeting (like Trump) on Twitter!

GOOD LUCK TO EVERYONE! 

Bi-Monthly Goals for July & August 2019 — Derek Barton

Blog Goal #1

Well…this has definitely been a challenging yet rewarding year. Unfortunately, events have substantially impacted my writing production.

At the beginning of April, I gave you my goals for April & May.  Now, I won’t go into detail or give any excuses, but me and my family had to face and overcome some serious medical obstacles followed by financial hardships. I was so derailed that I lost most of June as well still working things out.

The dust has settled and overall, we are sitting better than where we even started the year.  However, like any sudden change, it takes time to recover and adapt.

I do want to apologize to you, my core fans, and ask for your forgiveness and patience.

My work schedule has done a 360 degree shift on me and thus, my writing time has been severely compromised. One of my priorities this month will have to be to determine when and where to write. As I have stated in the past that I write mainly after 10 PM when my family goes to bed. Now I am working from 8 AM to 4:30 PM versus 11:30 AM to 8 PM  — not too mention the two hours of driving time… But, I repeat, I am not wanting  to give you excuses, only facts which I’ll have to find a work-around.

I promise you: Writing and developing my collection is too important for me to throw away or forget about. Adjustment, flexibility, good attitude and drive will help me find a path through.

Here were my goals and results from April & May:

  • Complete the outline for the third book in the Wyvernshield Series — partially completed; more chapters to work though.
  • Complete the outline for the new web saga, Juxtaposed — succeeded on this goal, but need to publish the third installment.
  • Complete the outline for the new Evade Series (crime/horror series) — no writing or outlining yet done on this storyline unfortunately.
  • Rework the covers of my books — partial success as I revamped the Elude Series which I’m quite happy with. Still need another artist or somehow figure out what I want for my new covers for the Wyvernshield Series.
  • Begin a four-part guest blog swap with fellow writer Adam Mitchell and complete a Blog Interview with him! — success as I published the interview (see here if you haven’t had a chance to read it) and have done 3 of the 4 guest blogs with him so far.

And by the way…I recently did an in-depth interview with my voice actress, Laura Richcreek on the Wyvernshield Series. That is in the editing stage but soon to be released. STAY TUNED FOR THAT!  It was fun to do and we get into a lot of the minute details and reasons behind the plot twists in the two books>>SPOILERS ALERT<<  

My Goals for July & August:

The last goal blog, I proposed goals and put some dates of completion with them.  This time I’m going to try putting Priority Levels on them — I will work from the top down which will keep me focused on what’s most important for me to complete.

  • Complete the total outline for the third book of the Wyvernshield Series. Highest Priority.
  • Maintain a two-week production of the chapters for the web series, Juxtaposed. Highest Priority.
  • Develop and begin the Evade Series outline.  Medium Priority.
  • Find a cover artist or design the Wyvernshield book covers myself.  Medium Priority.
  • Develop a book trailer for Wyvernshield Series. Lowest Priority (stretch goal).

 

There are many other things I want to do, but time is very limited so I hope these goals can be accomplished. With luck and with the better financial position, I hope to do more appearances, giveaways, and book signings by the end of the year! Thanks for everyone’s support and I appreciate everyone sticking around to see what’s in store for the future.

 

 

Reviews of Audible Book AND 80s & 2019’s Movie Versions of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary — Derek Barton

PS VS PS

Pet Sematary

by Stephen King — Horror Novel

Released on November 14, 1983 — 561 pages

Narrated by Michael C. Hall (of the Dexter television series)

 

MOVIE ADAPTIONS:

1989 Pet Sematary — Screenplay written by Stephen King — Starring Dale Midkiff, Fred Gwynne & Denise Crosby

2019 Pet Sematary —  Screenplay written by Jeff Buhler — Starring Jason Clarke, John Lithgow & Amy Seimetz

 

This review post I wanted to do a little different as this book is one of my favorites from Stephen King and to some fans, the 1989 movie was one of the best movie renditions of his books.

Recently, King released a new audio version narrated by the talented Michael C. Hall who played the vigilante/serial killer on the HBO television hit, Dexter.  And this last April, the film reboot was made of Pet Sematary.  I felt it was fitting to give you a review of all three.

 

The Synopsis:

When Dr. Louis Creed takes a new job and moves his family to the idyllic rural town of Ludlow, Maine, this new beginning seems too good to be true. Despite Ludlow’s tranquility, an undercurrent of danger exists here. Those trucks on the road outside the Creed’s beautiful old home travel by just a little too quickly, for one thing…as is evidenced by the makeshift graveyard in the nearby woods where generations of children have buried their beloved pets.

Then there are the warnings to Louis both real and from the depths of his nightmares that he should not venture beyond the borders of this little graveyard where another burial ground lures with seductive promises and ungodly temptations. A blood-chilling truth is hidden there—one more terrifying than death itself, and hideously more powerful. As Louis is about to discover for himself sometimes, dead is better

 

PET SEMATARY (1989)

The Review:

I will admit right now that I am very biased about this film for three reasons:  One – the late Fred Gwynne did an absolute stellar performance as Jud Crandall, the well-meaning neighbor, two – Dale Midkiff who starred as Louis Creed, the patriarch of the family as he gives a very emotional performance through the film and three – Brad Greenquist who plays the ill-fated jogger, Victor Pascow, who tries time and time again to warn Louis of the supernatural dangers.

These memorable characters and the roles they played in this tragic tale just stick with you long after you’ve read and/or seen the movie.  Jud Crandall a lifetime resident of Maine, comes to life on the screen with his thick Northeastern accent (“Ayup”) and quirky sayings like “The heart of a man is stonier, Louis.” And of course, “Sometimes…dead is better!”.

Overall, I have found this movie aged very well with the retelling, most of the acting and the physical special effects.

 

PET SEMATARY (2019)

 

The Review:

I applaud the effort this reboot made to give some new insight to the reasons why the Micmac Indians burial ground “soured” and became tainted with ghastly evil.  The writers delved a tad deeper into “the Wendigo” creature that traveled between our realm and the realm of the dead.  They also played up the enchantment the land held over the local children — how they had funeral marches and maintained the Pet Sematary grounds.

The other highlight they accomplished was a better version of Churchill, the Creeds’ cat (as seen above). Its evil stare would for sure lock you in your tracks should you ever come across it on your path.

However, those are the only two highlights for this version.  Very poor writing (I even wondered at times if Jeff Buhler even read the original book) as the plot veers erratically and key conversations and events in the book are just haphazardly placed in the film at times.

Another knock against the film is the underuse of John Lithgow’s incredible acting talent. Also, they took away the Jud Crandall accent as well as most of his character building interactions with Louis.  Instead of trying to scare the audience with Zelda, Rachel Creed’s dead sister, they should have focused on what made the 89 film a classic: its character stories.

This version tried too hard to introduce its own vague ideas (I won’t go into any detailed spoilers) but the unnecessary jump scares and changes to plot points were beyond annoying and the ending was over-the-top and frankly dumb.

 

PS Narr

 

The Narration:

Michael C. Hall was born February 1, 1971, in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Michael is a graduate of NYU’s Master of Fine Arts program in acting. He is known for the titular character “Dexter” in Dexter (2006) and as mortician “David Fisher” in Six Feet Under (2001). His most recent performance on Broadway was as “Hedwig” in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”.

Battled Hodgkin’s lymphoma during his run on Dexter, but the disease has been in remission since January, 2010.

 

Michael does a fantastic job of the voices and the pacing of the story, even channeling Fred Gwynne to perform the classic version of Jud Crandall.  Choosing this actor who has a way of delivering great sarcasm with subtly was a great choice for this story.

The Rating:

In summary, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the original book and the audio version.  As well I would recommend seeing the 1989 film as it brings King’s suspense and dark undertones to the screen, but don’t waste your time and money on the new 2019 Pet Sematary.  Hollywood’s attempt to reboot or “resurrect” this story was a dismal failure… Or as Jud Crandall would say, “Dead is better.”

 

By DEREK BARTON — Author of the ELUDE series (Parts I, II & III — a Horror/crime thriller), IN FOUR DAYS: a Horror-Suspense Novella and co-author of The Hidden (all available on Amazon & Kindle).  Also author of the Dark Fantasy novel series CONSEQUENCES WITHIN CHAOS and THE BLEEDING CROWN (also available on Audible.com!).

 

 

JUXTAPOSED: Chapter Two — Derek Barton

JX CH 2

CHAPTER TWO — THE ENDDAWN ENCAMPMENT:

Thomass stretched his neck, staring up into Enddawn’s blackened skylights high overhead. A massive storm crashed and raged over the building, flickers of lightning streaked along the storm’s underbelly.

It’s another record-breaking storm…just like the one on the night she died.

A thunderclap set off a brief spark in his mind’s eye — his sister, running right behind him through gales of pouring rain. The Crest’s raid on his village had already separated them from their father. Her tiny hand ripped violently from his grip. An explosion from a cannon cluster only yards ahead of them had launched the pair to the left and on top of a rubble pile. Moments later, the soldiers found him, semi-conscious, covered in her blood as he lay a few feet below her impaled body. Ppt. PPt. PPt. Phantom drops pooling on his chest.

The faint clatter of hail snapped him back to reality as it bounced off of the skylight glass, almost drowning out Overseer Thressden’s words.

No one here is ever that lucky.

As if he had the same thought, the Overseer of Kav’zera’s prison encampment gripped the microphone stand attached to a gray cabinet. He stood upon a floating metal platform, hovering above the crowd. He angled the mic closer to his face. His voice was a deep bass and a bit on the gritty-side.

“…The incursion into Bre’oal has interrupted our normal supply caravans. I understand that some of you have been harking this as a positive, a victory of sorts for your fellow traitors among the Yularis.” He paused and his eyes scanned the crowd of youths standing in line formation in front of him. Not a single face was raised or a pair of eyes upturned to meet his.

The first rule at Enddawn impressed upon newcomers, normally on the receiving end of an ionized baton, is that no one is ever to look in the face of the Crest Overseer or any of the Malatt guards.

“Meal rations will be reduced to two half-meals per day until further notice. I realize this might seem taxing or harsh to some of you, but in such violent times as these, one must be resolved and steadfast. To be shining examples to those around you who might be seeking direction. Your sacrifices and efforts to make sure the colonists eat before you are recognized by me and the Council. The Crest will always be there — to take responsibility for you. President-General Rhiet may not understand your recent betrayals, but he’s given you this gift of a second chance to join society. You are here to re-educate yourselves and—”

“—that’s hopeless!” Thomass uttered the curse barely hidden in a hacking cough.

Sudden and shock-induced laughter erupted through the crowd of eighteen prisoners. Everyone’s eyes found him as he stood in a tight-knit group of four. He’d only been brought here two months before, but already he’d won the loyalty of many of the ex-patriots.

Realizing what happened, everyone tightly held their breath and waited for a new storm to burst. Thomass leaned and peeked past his closest ally, Rovunn, to the side where the carbon glass reflected the Overseer’s image.

“You’re screwed,” Rovunn whispered. Worry registered in the black boy’s eyes.

Overseer Thressden, thick in a frame which was more iron muscle than any fat, stared in stony silence. His piercing black eyes matched his salt-and-pepper flat-top hair and matching thin goatee. The man made no movement and seemed to be seeing Thomass for the first time ever. Capturing Thomass’ image of stark white hair, heavyset body and crystaline blue eyes.

“Indeed, some of you will never come to appreciate the blessings of the Crest,” Overseer Thressden continued. He then took a deep breath and pressed forward with his speech of prepared propaganda.

Thomass didn’t know if he was spared or if the Overseer hadn’t actually seen him. Either way, he knew his mouth had nearly cost him again.

On the other side of Rovunn, Welleum, a thin boy with shaggy sandy hair, slid his right boot to the side, dragging a parcel of white paper. Rovunn checked to see where the guards were then with care stepped lightly over the paper and slid it to Thomass.

After copying Rovunn’s spot-check of the Malatt, he slowly dropped down, pretending to tie his boot. Lifting his foot, he read:

L.S. 4 HERNANDEZ @ 23
BRB DODGENS?

Using the end of his bootlace which he’d dipped previously into pencil shavings, he marked a Y on the note next to the name Dodgens, the guard who they intended to bribe.

‘Bout time! That cockroach won’t do this again after tonight.

Charells, one of Thomass’ group, was recovering in the infirmary for his stolen food rations. “L.S.” was the abbreviation for “lesson-session” which is what Hernandez was going to get for snitching on Charells to the Malatt.

As Thomass stood, he slid the note with his boot down the line intended for the prisoner Elexendar. The idiot bent down and picked up the paper without thought, reading it before his face. Greige, a dark, olive-skinned boy snatched the paper out of the his hands and ate the note.

“ENOUGH!” The Overseer roared as he swept the hoverplate down right above their bowed heads.

“EXPLAIN — DON’T MAKE ME WAIT!”

Thomass could feel the waves of heat from the plate’s engines. He knew the man was directly over him. His shaking hand came up and swiped nervously at his long bangs.

Before he realized what he did, he looked up at the man. “I, uh, I’m sorry, uh, Overseer, sir. I just ne—”

Intense rolling pain coursed along his left side and down through his boots. The series of electrified stingers gripped the muscles in his calf so sharply his toes even curled by reflex. As he sprawled onto his back in pure agony upon the concrete floor, Thomass could not even remember the rest of what he was going to say.

At the front of the prisoner lines, the Overseer landed his hoverplate. Two sets of hands gripped Thomass’ arms and drug him on his back. The Malatt then pressed his face to the floor before Overseer Thressden as he removed a charged Viperglove from a shelf in the cabinet.

“Prisoner Thomass, why have you stopped answering me?” His fist, wrapped in a red metal gauntlet, rained down and struck between Thomass’ shoulders.

“I asked you for a reason for your lack of engagement.” Another strike landed on his right hand breaking two of the boy’s fingers.

The Overseer coated in a fine sheen of sweat shook his head. “I don’t think you understand the language we speak here.” The fist then cracked the left kneecap.

“You seem unwilling to speak to me. You’ll have some time to think about it in The Shaft.” Thomass didn’t know where the last strike hit him as the metal Viperglove blasted him into unconsciousness.

 

***

 

A set of handcuffs dug deep into Thomass’ wrists, blackened welts formed in a loop. The tips of his boots barely touched the floor as he was suspended from chains in a blue neon-lit shaft.

Voices, muted and slurred, whispered to him. The words chanted in a sing-song tempo.

Open to your Mind, Open to your Message.
This is not the end of your Tale.
Speak with the freedom of Death.

There was an unusual accent, a foreign element to the speech. He was almost entertained by it. A faint smile crept over his lips.

“Who’s there?” Thomass mumbled, his lips cracked and baked by the neon lamps.

Something is wrong!
Who said that?
Did someone follow us?

The voices clashed and clouded together as the whispers were said at the same time.

“Who’s there?” Thomass repeated, a little louder this time.

There was no response and he was met only with silence. However, the pain in his back and hands, especially his right began to speak to him.

So this is what they’re all afraid of? This is The Shaft?

He’d gotten a few worse injuries in some of the Yularis clashes than what the Overseer had done to him, but he doubted he’d see the infirmary soon. Yet when he first came to the Enddawn Encampment, all they talked and gossiped about was what happened in The Shaft. Terrible, nightmarish stories.

Dae j’da Vos Liad Damnos.
Dae j’da Vos Liad Damnos.
Dae j’da Vos Liad Damnos.

Again, the strange voices echoed in the quiet of The Shaft. This time he realized he hadn’t truly heard the words. They rang out in the recesses of his mind.

Am I mad? Am I actually still dreaming?

Liad Damnos, tell me your name.

Thomass… Who of the Viles are you?

And the voice actually replied.

My name is Alexander.