Deadly After Dark, fourth in the genre-defining Hot Blood erotic horror anthology series, pushes the envelope the furthest yet. Two Bram Stoker Award–nominated stories—Lucy Taylor’s searing “Thing of Which We Do Not Speak” and Edward Lee’s brilliantly grisly “Mr. Torso”—demonstrate the depth and range of the best erotic horror, and highlight a fourteen-story collection that will both arouse your senses and make your blood run cold. Other contributors include award-winning and bestselling mystery author Max Allan Collins, making an all-too-rare foray into the dark side of suspense, as well as pioneering work from contemporary horror master Jack Ketchum and new fiction by both Graham Watkins and Graham Masterton. It’s no surprise Fangoria said “Deadly After Dark is a worthy continuation of a series that has yet to reach its climax.”
Praise for the Hot Blood series
“Read Hot Blood late at night when the wind is blowing hard and the moon is full.” —Playboy
“Outstanding . . . A daring combination of sex and terror.” —Cemetery Dance
“Will appeal to your every kink.” —Locus
“Seek out this one (or its predecessors) for some naughty fun.” —Booklovers
About the Author
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THINGS OF WHICH WE DO NOT SPEAK
Hit me," said Elaine.
I thought I hadn't heard her right.
"Hit me," she repeated. I stopped in mid-stroke.
She might as well have said the sheets were on fire. My penis slithered out of her like a clubbed snake.
Rolling off her, I stared at the cracked plaster and wondered why ceilings weren't routinely decorated with some groin-enlivening mural — Delacroix's Rape of the Sabines maybe or some nice nineteenth-century Japanese porn — something to provide spent males, or prematurely limp ones, some focus for contemplation other than their own untimely detumescence.
"Why did you say that?"
"That was Little Elaine."
"Oh, Christ, not that inner child crap."
I flopped onto my side, willing myself not to say anything more. I mean, I loved this woman. Even if I'd only known her for a few months, I loved her passion and her energy and the way she craved sex like some kind of cock-junkie, but sometimes her incessant psychobabble, pop psychology, Survivers of Lousy Childhoods Anonymous or whatever bullshit the shrinks on the best-seller list were hyping these days really got old.
After all, nobody has a perfect childhood, right? But you grow up and you forget about the bike you didn't get for Christmas or the dog that got hit by a car. You get down to the business of being a grown-up and you leave your childhood behind.
I stole a glance at Elaine. She appeared to be meditating on the area between her eyebrows.
"I asked you to hit me."
"That doesn't turn me on. I care about you. I want to kiss you and caress you."
"You don't get it, do you?"
"Evidently not. Care to enlighten me?"
"I don't want you to hurt me. Getting rough during sex doesn't have to mean anything sexist or sinister. It just adds to the rush, like going over the top of a roller coaster. My therapist says it's really Little Elaine, my inner child, who wants to be slapped. Little Elaine grew up with lots of yelling and screaming and hitting. She's addicted to chaos."
"Do you have any idea how stupid you sound when you talk about yourself in the third person? I feel like I'm in a ménage à trois, and one of us is underage."
"Fuck you, Matthew. You're just being a prick 'cause you lost your hard-on."
She flung the sheets aside and leapt out of the bed.
Suddenly I felt very alone.
"I wish you wouldn't go."
My pecker wished it, too. Elaine was a dancer and part-time fitness trainer. Her body radiated a fierce, androgynous energy. Riding Elaine, it was like making love to a lust-struck python. Now she moved about the bedroom, gathering up items of her clothing that had been cast about in a frenzy of libido that, given the present circumstances, now seemed sad and ludicrous. "Elaine, I'm sorry."
"Look, I won't ask you again to do anything you're not up for —" She realized what she'd said, and we both laughed. At least it broke the tension, but she didn't stop getting dressed. "I have to leave anyway. Cory's probably sweet-talked the sitter into letting him stay up to watch MTV."
"Hey, tell Cory I got that backgammon set he wanted."
"That was sweet of you, Matthew. I will."
After Elaine left, I lay on the damp, sex-scented sheets, feeling angry and confused, marveling at the peculiar masochism of people who seemed to relish the rehashing of their traumatic pasts. I had always avoided thinking of my own family. Yet now, perversely, the memories came, each with its own distinctive sting, like an angry acupuncturist jabbing in the needles.
My father had died in '88, and Mom lived with my sister RuthAnn in Illinois. I called occasionally, but the mere sound of their voices was like hearing the language of a foreign land where one was once held captive. I had no wish ever to revisit it.
If Elaine's family had been drunken and violent, mine had been the opposite: quiet, pious, restrained. Grace before meals, Mass on Sunday. No alcohol, no swearing, no voices raised in either rage or exultation. Boundaries were rigidly observed and privacies respected.
Dad taught high school chemistry and coached football. RuthAnn, two years older than I, was a high school track star. I was a "brain" who could master trig but blundered about in gym class like a lobotomized brontosaurus, a timid tourist in my skin to whom the language of the body seemed as alien as Sanskrit.
Football was Dad's great passion. A winning team meant conversation at the supper table, a losing one evoked grim silence. Sometimes I couldn't help but wonder how he felt, coaching other people's athletic, strapping sons, then sitting across the table from his own plump, uncoordinated progeny.
Freddy Burton was older than I, an eighteen-year-old senior, but even pudgier and less athletic than I was. For that reason, I suppose, I tried to be his buddy. I'd invite Freddy over for dinner and watch him scarf down two desserts and hope Dad noticed how truly disgusting Freddy was, how his gut lopped over his trousers and his chins jiggled. I figured if I couldn't make Dad proud of me, at least I'd make him less ashamed.
Like that time I dislocated my shoulder in a sledding accident, and Dad drove me to the hospital. He didn't comfort me, but only said he hoped I wasn't going to cry. I nearly bit my tongue in half not crying.
I was thinking of that ride to the hospital when I fell asleep, and the old nightmare surfaced in all its terrible clarity:
My throat feels like I've gargled with Drano. The school nurse has diagnosed strep throat and sent me home. Now I stand at the foot of the stairs, looking up at my father, thinking maybe he's come home for lunch. He holds one hand out like a traffic cop and says, "Don't come up here."
But my room is upstairs, and my bed and my books. I have a sudden, urgent need to be there. To crawl in bed with a book and escape into a jungle of squiggly black bug tracks on a cream-colored page.
I start up the stairs.
"No," commands Dad.
A fierce heat radiates from above. My eyelashes feel scorched, my forehead burns. At first I think it's fever. But suddenly I understand — our house must be on fire! And Mom and RuthAnn! Where are they?
Now I remember a story I read about a boy who saved his family from a burning building. How I longed to be that boy, to be a hero better than any football star. To see the pride and gratitude in Dad's eyes, to be someone who mattered.
I rush up the stairs, oblivious to danger, determined to rescue Mom and RuthAnn, to make Dad proud.
Dad blocks my path.
He grips my shoulders, forces me to meet his eyes. They gleam like pale, ice-encrusted stones.
He says, "Some things we do not speak of."
This was the nightmare from my youth, with Dad saying those words I always thought I had imagined, until the night Elaine asked me to hit her.
After that, it seemed as if I heard Dad's voice every time I closed my eyes.
On Saturday, Elaine couldn't get a baby-sitter for Cory, so I took the Lexington #6 train over to 8th Street and walked up to Avenue A, stopping at the corner market to pick up steaks and a bottle of Chianti, some soda pop for Cory.
When I left the store in the early twilight, the neighborhood was already acrawl with people who looked as though a few hours hence they'd be filling up the local emergency room psych ward and drunk tank. A shopping bag hag waddled past me, babbling gibberish with the panache of a Pentecostal speaking in tongues. A slant-eyed hooker — some exotic mix perhaps of Chinese, Hispanic, and black — leaned a leather-clad hip in a doorway.
Rap music blatted from an open window. Across the street, a couple stood on the porch of a dilapidated walk-up, bickering in some language that sounded like corn popping. I could smell marijuana, hear curse words shouted, taste the grit and the swill of the city.
Dammit, how could Elaine raise her son in such a pit? Once the neighborhood had held hopes for gentrification, but tonight the little ragged clumps of street people, the pairs of sullen hookers, fouled it like the droppings of a million diarrhetic pigeons.
They were on me before I realized what was happening. A tribe of them, four half-naked boys, their complexions varying shades of brown and black and yellow. They sauntered over from a doorway, all sinews and skin, like scrawny wolves wearing tight jeans and sneers.
"You party, mister?"
The one who spoke was short with black, crafty eyes, the eyes of some wild, nocturnal raptor. His skin looked the color of dusk, all soot and smoke, and his neck was way too supple and long and unblemished to belong on a boy. His face bore a mocking smirk that I longed to rearrange with my fist.
"You talk, man?" said another. I glimpsed gold teeth, heard gum pop.
I elbowed my way past them, clutching my parcels.
"What you like, man? Blow-job? Hand-job? You like it in the ass?"
I reminded myself these were just kids trying to shock. Their high-pitched laughter sounded like Cory's the time I took him to an Eddie Murphy movie and, to my embarrassment, every other word was a four-letter one.
"Fuck you then. You ain't from this neighborhood. What is it? You a cop?"
I shifted the shopping bags to one arm and shoved the boy who blocked my way. He lost his balance, toppled off the curb. A stream of curses flew at me like darts. I reached Elaine's building and hurled myself through the door.
I didn't mention the encounter on the street, but when Elaine asked me to go back to the store for salad dressing, I pleaded fatigue. While Elaine worked in the kitchen, Cory and I played backgammon on the set I'd bought him. He was a bright boy, quick to learn. I watched him concentrate on his next move, brows furrowing, a small black mole on his left cheek accentuating the pallor of his skin.
The whiteness, the fragility of that skin made me think suddenly of the vermin I'd encountered on my way there. A sudden appalling image: Cory, a few years older, posturing and smirking, eyes bright with dope and menace, thumbs thrust into the pockets of his too-tight jeans, fingers angling down to form a V.
"Cory, does anyone ever bother you?"
He looked up, surprised. "You mean at school?" "Or here in the neighborhood. You know, older kids."
"You mean like drug pushers? Child molesters? We took a course in that last year in school — 'How to Be Street Smart and Safe.'"
"But do you feel safe around here?"
I made my move. Too fast, a blunder so obvious Cory had to think I was deliberately throwing the game.
"C'mon, Matthew. You can do better than that."
"Hey, look, I know this ain't — this isn't Fifth Avenue, and people get mugged here and all. But I can look out for me and Mom." He glanced behind him to make sure Elaine wasn't looking, then dug into his school bag and produced a set of nunchucks.
"Cory, you've got no business —"
But at once I saw in Cory's face the fear that I'd tell his mother. I knew that such a betrayal would mean a sure rupture in the friendship the boy and I were forming. So I nodded, respecting the trust he'd placed in me by protecting his secret.
Later, though, helping Elaine do the dishes, I voiced some general concern. "You really ought to move. It isn't safe to raise a child in this neighborhood."
"Cory's a tough kid. You should have heard what he said to the panhandler who cussed at me the other day. He's a tiger."
"He's only twelve years old, Elaine. He needs protection."
"Christ, Elaine, don't tell me you don't see the kind of hoodlums that hang out around this neighborhood. Why, just tonight on my way here, there was a gang of toughs who ..."
But then the implications of what I was about to tell her struck me, and a queasy, seasick feeling roiled liquidly in my guts. What if there was some significance in the fact that the young thugs had chosen me to waylay? What if the street kids had sensed something in me that even I was unaware of?
Elaine was staring at me strangely. "What happened, Matthew? You look sick."
"There was a younger kid, that's all," I quickly lied. "They roughed him up a bit. I put a stop to it."
Later, after Cory was tucked in bed and we'd made love, we lay with only our fingertips touching, letting the sweat dry off our bodies. Elaine's bedroom was stuffy, airless. A ceiling fan turning dissolutely overhead stirred air that seemed the temperature and consistency of tepid porridge.
Elaine stroked my hand. "Cory likes you. You're good with him."
"Cory makes it easy. He's bright and well-behaved. I don't know how I'd be if he were a brat."
Elaine turned on her side, pressed against me. Her skin felt hot and slick. She caressed the damp hair off my face, explored between my legs. A dangerous heat radiated off her. She moved against me, her belly muscles flexing. She was wet when I pushed inside her.
"Matthew? Did you hear me?"
She'd murmured something in her "naughty" voice, her Little Elaine voice, but I hadn't listened.
"Suppose I was a brat —"
Her words knifed through the sex-trance. "— and I'd been bad?"
I tried to get into the spirit of this without losing my concentration, without letting my mind leave its dark, preverbal rapture. "I wouldn't let you watch Sesame Street."
"I mean really bad."
"Put you up for adoption?"
"Matthew, please." Elaine stopped moving, but her internal muscles were at work, pumping, milking. "Punish me."
"You haven't done anything wrong."
I wasn't good at fantasy. Whatever the appeal of make-believe, I'd tried to leave it behind in childhood.
"Elaine, I can't get into this."
"Of course you can."
"I don't know what you want."
She gazed up at me, hungry-eyed.
"Hit me," cooed Elaine, all honey and heat.
"Elaine, this scares me...."
My erection was reacting like a Popsicle thrust toward flame. I tried to reconnect with sensuality by caressing Elaine's nipples, kissing her.
Elaine sucked my lower lip between her teeth, bit down. The pain was like an ice pick up the ass, unprecedented, scalding. I tasted blood.
She lunged at me. I fended her off, pinning her arms above her head, but it felt like she had twice as many joints as an ordinary woman and three times the strength. She broke my grip on her wrists and flailed at me with long acrylic nails.
I knew this was Elaine's idea of a game, but suddenly I felt terrified, like I was battling for my life.
I did what she wanted.
A timid blow at best. Yet a smile of relief and lust and, yes, even childish triumph spread across her features.
God help me, I wanted to hit her again.
Not just hit her, but pound her face until her nose shattered, until her eyes were fleshy slits echoing the larger wound between her legs, her cheekbones like crushed eggshells, and then I'd work her over down below, starting with her penis — Penis?
Shame flayed me. I muttered "Damn you," got out of bed, and headed for the bathroom.
I knelt beside the toilet, my dinner perilously close to retracing its original route. The hand with which I'd struck Elaine still tingled.
Elaine tapped on the door.
"Matthew? Matthew, listen. You didn't hurt me. Matthew, are you okay? What's wrong?"
But how could I answer her, when I truly wasn't sure? And how could I go to sleep, when I knew what I would dream?
I've left school early, sent home with a sore throat. Dad's car is in the driveway, but he isn't in the kitchen or the den, so I start up the stairs to look for him.
This time Dad doesn't stop me. A cold dread ices my stomach, and I try desperately to wake myself up, but it's as if I'm trapped in the dream, drowning in it, and I have to go on.
On the threshold of my parents' room, I hesitate. I've never intruded here, not even when I was five years old and woke up screaming, convinced the silhouette of the neighbor's cat outside my window was a bloody-fingered corpse, freshly self-exhumed, scratching at me outside the glass.
I give a timid knock before entering, but the room is empty.
From the bathroom that adjoins their room, I hear sounds. The door's half open, so I peek inside.
And almost blurt out "excuse me," because isn't that what you say when you catch someone on the commode, except the toilet seat Dad's sitting on is down, and Freddy Burton's head is bouncing up-down, down-up on his lap.
Dad looks at me, but doesn't disengage. It's as if the head is growing out of my father's crotch, a gross and bloated cancer complete with jug ears, sprouting from his genitals.
"You bastard!" I shout. "You bastard, I'm going to tell!"
I shut the door and run.
Outside, a light snow's falling. I run until my lungs hitch. Then I walk until I'm able to run some more. It goes like that, until I'm numb in every part of me except my heart, the part that hurts the most and that I cannot deaden.
Anger keeps me going long past the time my lungs and muscles scream to quit. What brings me home at last, though, is something else, that most exhausting of emotions, shame. I feel that I will choke on shame, because, as the anger recedes, what's left stranded on the shore of my soul isn't disgust or rage or revulsion, but something much more terrifying: black envy of the boy my father's used. Envy and, God help me, desire.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Deadly After Dark"
Copyright © 1994 Jeff Gelb.
Excerpted by permission of Jabberwocky Literary Agency, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword Forrest J. Ackerman,
Introduction Jeff Gelb and Michael Garrett,
Things of Which We Do Not Speak Lucy Taylor,
Mr. Torso Edward Lee,
Give It to Me, Baby Sidney Williams,
A Moment of Ecstasy Graham Watkins,
Immaterial Girl Michael Garrett,
The Last Client Jeff Gelb,
Reincarnal Max Allan Collins,
Yet Another Poisoned Apple for the Fairy Princess A. R. Morían,
Sex Starved Edo van Belkom,
The Rose Jack Ketchum,
Release of Flesh Steve Rasnic Tern,
The Numbers Game Bentley Little,
Heretical Visions Claudia O'Keefe,
Suffer Kate Graham Masterton,