Years ago, I saw a call for submissions for an anthology. I wrote what I thought was the perfect story for it, but competition was fierce and mine didn’t make it into the book. I workshopped the story for a while, including submitting it to my classmates at the Clarion Workshop, but after a while I stopped sending it out. I don’t even remember why. It sat in a drawer, just waiting.
Last year at BayCon, I picked up another call for submissions. The book was an ambitious anthology that combined something like a vertical wine tasting with the mansion in Clue: each story would take place in a different room of the mansion and each one progressed decade by decade into the present day.
My story took place solely in a boy’s room. I sent it off, hoping they wouldn’t have anything else like it. The book came out earlier this month!
Manor of Frights
Imagine a Victorian house where every room is cursed with a frightful existence. Are monsters in the halls? Ghosts left to fester in the library? Or are the rooms themselves enchanted with malevolent energy? What was summoned long ago and what doorways were left open? Manor of Frights is a collection of tales all set in different rooms of the same house.
With authors: Loren Rhoads, Judith Pancoast, Daphne Strasert, Mark Orr, Michael Fassbender, R.L. Merrill, Sumiko Saulson, Ollie Fox, Barend Nieuwstraten III, Rosetta Yorke, Amanda Leslie, Lesley Warren, BF Vega, DW Milton, D.J. Pitsiladis, Jason Fischer, and Emerian Rich.
Here’s an excerpt from my story in Manor of Frights:
by Loren Rhoads
The Boy’s Room, 1965
Pooh cocked an ear. “You hear something?”
“Nothing.” Ted puffed on his cigarette, black eyes shining in the dark bedroom.
Then something scraped against the bedframe below them.
“Hell.” Ted flicked his cigarette off the bed into the darkened bedroom. It vanished in midair. He drew his gun. “Let’s take a look, Pooh.”
Bellies down, the two teddy bears crawled across the bedclothes and peered over the edge of the bed. A scaly arm quested out from below. As Ted watched it, sweat beaded under his police cap.
A second arm joined the first in its search.
“Now?” Pooh whispered as the third arm probed out.
Ted shushed him.
A scaly head followed the arms, poking out from beneath a spill of blankets. Its bat ears swiveled upward at the bears. Its muzzle twitched.
“Banzai!” Pooh shouted as he leapt off the bed. He landed on the thing’s scrawny neck and pinned it to the floor. It reached around, trying to dislodge him. One of its flailing arms knocked the slingshot from Pooh’s grasp. The weapon skittered out of reach.
“Move!” Ted ordered from his position at the edge of the bed. “I can’t get a clear shot!”
“Throw me your gun!”
The monster snarled, baring needle-sharp teeth, and struggled to sweep Pooh from its back. The pudgy bear grabbed the furry tufts under the creature’s ears and held on. The creature bucked and kicked, pinwheeling its scaly arms as it spun in a circle.
Ted watched in horror, certain his companion was doomed. He desperately tossed the pistol and hoped Pooh could spare a hand to catch it.
With uncanny luck, the squirt gun bounced into Pooh’s lap. He fired point-blank into the back of the horror’s head. The monster squealed as water trickled down its nose. Somersaulting to the floor, Pooh fired another shot right between the monster’s reptilian eyes. Hissing like a teapot about to go on the boil, the creature slunk back under the bed, dripping and defeated.
“Get outta here, ya bug-eyed creep!” From his crouch, Pooh stared into its burning eyes and brandished the water pistol, ready to fire again.
Grumbling, the monster retreated into the darkness under the bed and faded from sight.
After blowing imaginary smoke from its barrel, Pooh tossed the squirt gun back up to Ted.
“I got this playing hero, you know.” Ted scowled down at him and lifted his cap, displaying a tattered ear.
“But…” Chastened, Pooh climbed hand over hand back up the bedclothes.
“Just think and be careful.” Ted grabbed the collar of Pooh’s shirt and hauled him up over the edge of the bed.
They both sat on the comforter for a moment—legs stretched in front of them—and caught their breaths. Pooh replayed the fight in his mind and tried to figure out how he could have done things differently. The outcome was exactly what he wanted to happen, so it was hard to see how he could have done things better.
Eventually, Ted asked, “Want a beer?”
“I sure could use one.” Pooh grinned as he tugged the too-small red T-shirt back down over his round belly. Already opened beer bottles appeared in Ted’s paws. He handed one to Pooh.
“Thanks.” Pooh lounged against the sleeping boy’s pillow. His gaze roamed past the Arthurian adventure books on the shelf to the abandoned cardboard castle in the corner, over a jumble of Hot Wheels cars to the karate uniform. Jimmy was growing up quickly and they wouldn’t be able to protect him for much longer. The thought made Pooh terribly sad.
To read the rest, treat yourself to a copy of Manor of Frights.