HORLA FICTION
Fine contemporary horror and stories of the supernatural from around the world

From the author of Cut Up

REPENTANCE IN THE EVENING

by CONOR ROBIN MADIGAN

‘Mary sat before him in the café, having not left her father’s home in two years. Her brother and new sister-in-law had been travelling all over, places she couldn’t imagine would have her coffee, which she had brought in a travel mug to their lunch…’

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Horror in Kiev

DESCENT

by AURIEL ROE

‘From her window, Olga watched her husband’s naked white body sink into the lake. She held her breath until he surfaced, then her eyes followed his heavy progress through the reeds and under the ornamental bridge. In all weathers and on most mornings, the  older men…’

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Scottish Noir

MY MURDER

by DAVID McVEY

‘I was at rock bottom. I had nothing and he had money, thousands of pounds, and I wanted it.’

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Kafkaesque Horror

COLLAR’S DIARY

by THOMAS KODNAR

‘Read this with gusto & cherish your past exuberance, Future Me—remember how happy you are on this bitterly cold winter’s day.’

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From the author of The Twist in the Branch

STUCK ON REPEAT

by MELANIE SMITH

‘Blackened vines crawl through tiny gaps in the doorframe and creep along the walls like serpents.’

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Occult Mystery

TIME

by JOHN ANDREINI

JON Harvey looked down at the dead man on his operating table as the team shut off equipment around him… Another surgeon had stood over Jon’s wife Gina three weeks earlier as life slipped from her body, on a table just like this one. We’re not gods, he thought…

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Horla Christmas Fiction 2018

CLASS GHOST

by JON GOWER

THE Tuesday night menu in the refectory was always the worst, food so vile and indigestible that it would be referred to as “The slop” or the “Gloop of doom” by the boys, their eyes ablaze with hunger.  But not so much hunger that they could face the bowls of execrable gruel. 

This particular Tuesday was worse, being the last Tuesday before Christmas and matron’s brother in law Swem had been emptying the traps by the canal so that the bowls were a minestrone of amphibian and culvert dwelling mammal.  Terrence Beech turned green after a spoonful and had to excuse himself to go outside.  And was never seen again.

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Horla Christmas Fiction 2018

FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES

by SALLY SPEDDING

JACK Tennant, along with two other travellers from Oban encumbered with bird-watching gear, scrambled through the rising tide until his boots met the sunken remains of Eilean Mor’s concrete walkway. His salted eyes scanned the rock face awaiting him, and he cursed that those granite steps leading upwards still hadn’t been restored. Given that this home to the Flannan Island Light was still a major curiosity, he’d make that omission priority on his Gaelic Heritage agenda.

Snow in the wind as he watched the black inflatable that had deposited the three of them on this lonely spot, speed back to the Western Rose. Time to psych himself up for the climb ahead, he told himself, aware of hesitation behind him.

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Horla Christmas Fiction 2018 

LOVING CHRISTMAS PUDDING

by JOHN ORD

THE following day he started a systematic inventory of the wreckage…

Going through his notebooks, however, he became concerned. Yes, there was lots of clothing, things to burn, plenty of handy odds and ends. But for drink, all he’d found was brandy – lots of it – and for food?  Well, inexplicably, the flight seemed to have carried nothing but a massive consignment of Christmas pudding.

There were hundreds of them.

DARK ENTERTAINMENT

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WASH THE SINS… NOT ONLY THE FACE

by GEORGE AITCH

THE newsreaders returned to the headlines of the day. They mulled over the latest Brexit ruminations and the Trump presidency. As a close, they quickly skimmed through a piece about a streak of skin complaints causing visits to hospital.

Ella glanced at her rash. It was so easy to get caught up in these things. You heard something on the news or an advert somewhere and it became all you could think about. These obsessions were designed of course. That was part of her job, a segment of it at least. It was all an effort to attract views or sell something. People loved to panic.

DO OUR SINS REALLY FIND US OUT? NEW BRITISH HORROR

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SMOGSEA

by M.J. ALLEN

BEFORE things got like they are, we were ‘big time’: fixtures with sides from parts of the country that were clean, and maybe still are. Now we’re F.S.L.

Most call it the Freak Show League. You can blame so-called comedians who take the piss through The Net for that – bastards who live in Posh Pockets and stuff their noses with their own private air. 

Twenty-minute matches against clubs like the Slummers, the Runts and the Rats

DYSTOPIAN HORROR

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VICTORIA AND THE MICE

by HOLLY TINSLEY

IT was not polite to scurry beneath the crawl space beneath the house to catch the mice that lived there either. It was not polite to scoop them up and bite their screeching heads off. Victoria loved to do that. The fur would tear and the blood would taste rich and warm. Sometimes Margaret would be having such a frightfully wonderful time being Victoria, that hours could pass before she remembered who she really was. It was always such a disappointment when she did.

Mama would have had a fit, to see her daughter smeared with mouse blood. Margaret would run to the tap that stuck out from the side of the house, splashing away the evidence.

DARK TALE FROM A HORLA NEW VOICE

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CANDIED ALMONDS

by MARK SADLER

 

IN another large room a gigantic wooden cross, like a marionette frame, had been hoisted from a central fitting, where it hung just below the painted panels of the high ceiling. Several ornate ballgowns dating to the Tudor and Elizabethan periods, fitted around wire mannequins, were suspended from the arms of the hanger at different heights. They dangled like aristocratic ghosts, casting dim shadows onto the parquet floor, stirred into slow back-and-forth rotation by faint currents of air.

Chris was waiting for me in the drawing room… The light from a log fire sparkled in the facets of a cut crystal bowl that was filled with pastel-coloured, candied almonds.

NEW LONDON GOTHIC

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UNACCOMPANIED CELLO SUITE

by SIMON MARLOWE

THE passenger suddenly appeared and sat right next to me. Now this was odd. Every seat in front of me was available and I was sure there was no one left on the train. I used the reflection in the window to identify a young woman, but I was unable to distinguish her face because she dropped her head into her lap. She then put her hands over her head, as if she was trying to block out some intolerable noise.

A NEW RAILWAY GHOST STORY

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THE DARK FISH

by PETER KENNY

‘The symbol for Pisces is two fish, which are hooked at the mouth and strung together by a single silver cord. He thought about its symbolism often. One of his venerable textbooks grandly called this the cord of human limitation. It made him fear there were things about himself he would never break free from.’

A ZODIAC HAUNTING

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RIVERSCAPE

by GARRY KILWORTH

THERE stood the cottage, which I now owned, tucked amongst some laurels.

I stepped out of the taxi, paid the cab driver and picked up my suitcases. So, Uncle Pete had left me this pile of bricks in his will? It didn’t look too bad from outside, but I would rather have had the money my sister received in the bequest. Selling a remote Suffolk cottage, well away from the nearest village, was not going to be easy.

RURAL ENGLISH HORROR

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TWO SILVER COINS

by P.F. GRAZIOLI

A MAN walks into the coffee shop… the collar of his coat is up, I can’t see his face…

A sense of curiosity pushes me to observe him discreetly; I just have to look at him, and yet… even if the lights in the bar are low, I’m afraid to do so.

RAILWAY HORROR: NEW DARK TALE BY ITALIAN AUTHOR

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THE WATCH

by JOHN ORD

TWENTY years earlier he’d happened upon the premises of Mr P. Rimrose, ‘Purveyor…’ a small black tile announced by the front door ‘…of fine timepieces’. It was a tiny shop in a back street. Ronnie, already something of a collector, was drawn to its little window and immediately taken by the unusual, but serious chronometers displayed. Not many pieces, for sure, but particularly beautiful and of ‘feature combinations’ he’d not seen before. He knocked… There was light and then movement; a dark shape beckoned Ronnie in.’

CONTEMPORARY DARK TALE

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THE DEMON L

by CARLY HOLMES

‘I WAS thirteen and a half the first time I killed a man. It was an accident and I was dreadfully sorry about it at the time. L, I was called. It was spelled with more letters than that, but L is what it sounded like. 

FROM HER NEW STORY COLLECTION Figurehead 

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From the author of Absinthe 

 MIDNIGHT CLOWN

by GUIDO EEKHAUT

‘NOBODY wants to encounter a clown at midnight in an empty alley. The same can be said of a vampire. The clown, because he is out of place and thus threatening, and the vampire because he does fit in – but you don’t. Anyway, the whole thing always ends with blood on the pavement.’

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THE CURE FOR THE CAGED RABBIT

by MICHAEL D. DAVIS

IT started when the leaves were falling dead from the trees and the chill in the air stalked your skin. The national news reported on it as just a strange occurrence and shrugged it off. The reporter didn’t even take it seriously. Amusement crossed her face as she said, “At a hospital in the town of Riddlebeck, Iowa there have been a large number of people suffering from the hiccups.”

The first casualty was a man with a history of lung problems.

NEW DARK COMIC HORROR

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BLASTOBLET

by CLAUDIA WARDLE

‘I was struck by the absence of any artificial light, only the amber of wick-dancers to assist the eyes…  I ought to have noted the unusual circumstances: an open cathedral devoid even of a single widow shrouded in a black mantilla.Yet somehow I did not. I began to encroach upon the apse, my footsteps resounding in the expanse as I passed the chapels and pews.’

ITALY-INFLUENCED CONTEMPORARY HORROR

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THE DEVIL’S SPIT

 by JANE FRASER

‘The off-shore breezes continued all week and every day the temperature rose. It was said to be one of the hottest summers on record. It didn’t seem possible it could get any hotter. But it did.’

STRANGENESS ON THE COAST OF WALES

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THE RED SETTEE 

by SALLY SPEDDING

‘… inserting transfusion lines into a patient’s neck, she’d wonder if and when that beautiful, sexy piece of furniture would soon be hers.’

GERMANY-SET CONTEMPORARY DARK STORY

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IT DIDN’T END AT DINNER

by JON GOWER

‘By now Anna has had enough wine to make her tipsy and by dint of this, brave, or at least confident in a way she isn’t usually. So she takes off a shoe and slides her foot along Henry’s leg. His face doesn’t change but she does notice the waxy consistency of his skin.’

FIRST PUBLICATION IN ENGLISH

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THE OPEN WINDOW

by WENDY HOLBOROW

‘… a deep rumbling seems to shake the earth. The sea has drawn back like a dog’s lips in a snarl. The ocean bed has become visible. There is a profound silence and in an instant I realise what is about to happen. Then a roar as the sea rushes forward to devour everything in its path, the wave rearing its head like a hound from hell, baying and ready to attack.’

GREECE-SET CONTEMPORARY HORROR

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MAGPIES

by FRANCES HOLLAND

NOBODY expected Bishop William Linton to marry at his advanced stage in life.

He was, after all, forty-eight years old, at that age when a man ought to have given up on romantic notions of a beautiful young woman swooning away in his arms, telling him that she loved him, and that she would surely die without him. But then Miss Grace Cavendish had arrived at the grammar school to replace Monsieur Heger, and… 

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JUST IN CASE

by JANE FRASER

‘… a snatched glimpse through the open window of the car… its amber, wide-eyed stare holds mine just long enough to feel that it is making some deep connection.’

FOLKLORE-INFLUENCED FICTION

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MIDNIGHT RIDE

by SALLY SPEDDING

‘A frightened boar had lunged at him from behind the last row of unpicked vines as he’d dragged his latest load towards the truck. His heart ruptured by one determined horn. His raging screams were followed by a shocked silence once the black, snorting beast had fled.’ 

FRANCE-SET MODERN SUPERNATURAL

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POSSESSION

by WENDY HOLBOROW

‘Your passionate attachments and longings are for your acquisitions; to touch, to devour with your eyes. Not even your ‘woman that does’ is allowed out of the kitchen where she cooks your meals and sees to your laundry, apart from on Saturdays when you escort her to the bathroom, where she cleans your toilet. But your paintings, your books, your collections of glassware and ceramics, they are deserving of your touch – you clean them, loving the feel…’ 

 CONTEMPORARY DARK FABLE

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A FAMILY AFFAIR

by P.F. GRAZIOLI

THE dust, gently blown from the old album, rose like a grey veil which materialised for a few seconds in the ray of light coming from the window, and then slowly fell on the floor of the attic.

“See… In this album, you can find pictures of our family,” the mother said.

“Who are these two?” asked the child.

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FACE TO FACE

by ANGELA GRAHAM

‘They were the dead. The dead of this place. They let her know that they were ready to cross the sunlit space and join her. They had been waiting to make this move and she had come among them…’

IRELAND-SET MODERN SUPERNATURAL

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THE SEA HOSPITAL

by ANGELA GRAHAM

‘Where those rocks slope up out to the sea, a huge hole opens at your feet. You’ll see the water swirling and turning way below. Aye. They’d tie the patient to a chair then lower it, down into the gap.’

STRANGENESS ON THE COAST OF IRELAND

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DEEP BLACK SEA

by BRIAN MANTON

‘Yvgeny sat in the belly of the boat with the blindfolded old man. He held the table with one slabstone hand, and braced himself against the galley wall to keep in sync with the motion of the room.’ 

CAUCASUS-SET MODERN HORROR

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SQUASH BLOSSOM GIRL

by SALLY SPEDDING

THERE was something wrong with that huge, dying sun. When he squeezed his eyes shut, he felt as hot as if he were standing on Venus, and it wasn’t only because of Maman’s jumper, a size too small and the wool too thick. He pulled his arms free of its clinging sleeves and tore the wretched thing over his head, gasping for air as he did so. Just like last summer, when he’d gone underwater in the Lac des Cygnes and had felt close to death.

FRANCE-SET SHORT THRILLER

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LEST WE FORGET

by PAUL MURGATRYOD

A MOURNFUL Christ on a lofty cross gazed down at row after row of gravestones that stretched on and on, the pale gravestones of thousands and thousands of soldiers who lost their lives in the sombre slaughter of the Great War.

A tall and upright old man and a much shorter old lady advanced along one row of gravestones, holding up black umbrellas to ward off the rain that fell steadily from the bruised sky. Her heels left small holes in the sodden grass, which instantly filled with muddy water. A moaning gust of wind suddenly stabbed her between the shoulders, making her hunch them and pull her crimson scarf tight at her throat. He didn’t notice the icy blast, as he was intent on the names of the dead and the melancholy epitaphs, shaking his grey head sadly at the youth of so many of those who had met their end on the battlefields of Belgium.

‘Blummineck, who’s this old trout? And the cheerful chappie with her? Clear off, you flippin’ old fossils, go and eat coke!’

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FUERA DE CASA

by ALAN BILTON

‘I don’t think I even went to sleep.  Instead I just lay there, whimpering, but even then I could tell the bed wasn’t in the right place, the shadow of the wardrobe somehow different.’

CONTEMPORARY UNCANNY FICTION

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CRACKS

by MATTHEW JOHN FLETCHER

‘THE figure collapsed back against the door, sagging at the middle. As it straightened up, it resolved itself into the form of a man in his early twenties whose clothes seemed a size too large and whose eyes held an apprehensive look.’

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GULLI’S STRANGE JOURNEY

by ALI AZAR

‘Gulli had many visitors who came to her to end their miseries, to seek remedies for their infirmities, to break their curses; Gulli’s memory was filled with these secrets and untold stories. As a Seyid, she wore a black turban with a dark purple dress…’ 

IRAN-SET SHORT STORY

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THE OTHER SIDE

by TIM JEFFREYS

‘… frantically, she searched through the clutter on her desk until she found a pen and a piece of paper blank on one side.  Listening intently, she began to write down the sequence of taps and scratches…’

SILICON AGE HORROR

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