Put on a pair of “X-Ray” glasses and things will never look the same! These almost magical specs will make you the hit of the party! Astonishing three-dimensional X-Ray visions of what your friends—and girls—look like under their clothes! And all for just $1.
THE MORE YOU WEAR THEM . . .
Martin Blackstone punishes his son for wasting his allowance on a pair of flimsy cardboard sunglasses X-ray vision . . . yeah, right. Martin tries them on just for the hell of it—and all they do is give him a headache . . .
. . . THE DEEPER YOU’LL SEE.
Until he sees things he can’t possibly be seeing. Glimpses of things on the other side of a wall or beneath someone’s clothing. He wants to believe it’s just his overactive imagination but the “X-Ray” specs actually work. Then the fun novelty becomes a waking nightmare when the glasses burn into his face and he starts seeing horrifying apocalyptic visions no mortal man was ever meant to see. Images that alter his very personality—from a husband and father to a bloodthirsty homicidal maniac . . .
Because sometimes you can see too much.
Praise for Hunter Shea
“A lot of splattery fun.” —Publishers Weekly
“Frightening, gripping.” —Night Owl Reviews
About the Author
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If there was one thing Martin Blackstone truly hated, it was being disturbed during the two hours he allowed himself a night to watch television. After working all day at the factory, was it too much to ask for two goddamn hours of peace and quiet?
Especially tonight, Charlie's Angels night.
Even Andrea knew not to bother him when Charlie's Angels was on. All his buddies wanted a piece of that Farrah, but Blackstone had never been into blondes, no matter how pointy their nipples were poking out of red bathing suits on posters. No, he was a Jaclyn Smith man. That girl was specially handcrafted by God himself. He'd never kick her out of bed for eating crackers, that was for sure.
Not that his wife was some slouch. Back in her prime, she could turn heads with the best of them. She was still attractive, but mommy-attractive. Jaclyn Smith was on a whole different level. He bet she'd be hot even when she was in her seventies.
"Keep it down up there!" he shouted at the ceiling.
The Angels were running. He daren't take his eyes off the tube. Unfortunately, it wasn't one of those slow-motion shots.
"It's just the boys having a little fun," Andrea said, crocheting yet another baby blanket. Blackstone often wondered if any of their neighbors knew about the miracle of condoms. It seemed someone was coming up pregnant every month. Crazy Italian Catholics. Here they were, having all kinds of irresponsible fun, none of them thinking how it kept his wife doing hard labor, crocheting blanket after blanket like an enslaved seamstress.
"They can have fun without breaking through the floor."
Andrea waited until the commercial to speak again. "Brian's been cooped up all week. He needs to blow off a little steam."
Blackstone shook his empty beer can. Andrea got up to get him another.
"The kid had all day to get it out of his system." He popped the leg-rest up on his brand-spanking-new lounger. It was so comfortable that on some nights, he started fights with Andrea just to have an excuse to come downstairs and sleep on it.
"Noel had school, then he had to go home and do his homework and wait for dinner. Brian was practically jumping out of his skin waiting for him to get here." She handed him a cold Schaefer. They said it was the one beer to have when you're having more than one. Blackstone could testify to that. He pulled the top back and dropped the ring in the ashtray. The cold beer chilled him all the way down to his softening belly.
They heard muffled laughter, followed by what sounded like his sixteen-pound bowling ball being dropped to the floor. "If they don't settle down, I'll chuck their asses outside."
Andrea snatched up her blanket and dropped into the chair next to him, bristling. "You'll do no such thing. It's pitch-black and cold out there. You want Brian to get sick again?"
His irritation deflated and he sighed. "No, of course I don't."
Brian had just gotten over a hell of a case of chicken pox. He had more bumps on his skin than a West Virginia highway. They had to put socks over his hands to stop him from scratching and popping the sores. Being a ten-year-old, he was not enthralled with their solution. The doctor and medication had cost a pretty penny. The last thing Blackstone wanted to do was add a visit to one of those skin doctors to the ledger, so he'd told him to suck it up.
The socks were off now and Brian was feeling good enough to go back to school on Monday. His best friend Noel had been asking daily when he could come over.
Andrea patted his hand. "You may have had a bad day, but Brian has had a bad week."
"I know. All that talk about capping salaries has my blood boiling. That place is making money hand over fist and the greedy asshole owners want more. So how do they get it? By taking from the little guys. We got a meeting with union officials next week."
"The union won't let it happen. No sense giving yourself a stroke thinking about it."
"If there's a strike ..."
He bit his tongue. Andrea was right. There was no reason to keep harping on it. There'd be plenty of time later if and when the shit hit the fan.
Blackstone tried to settle down, remembering what it was like when he was the same age. Then Charlie's Angels came back on with a close-up of Jaclyn Smith and all of his thoughts were derailed. He drank his beer and indulged in his weekly fantasies.
Before he knew it, the show was over and Vega$ was getting ready to start.
"You have to walk Noel home," Andrea said.
Noel had been granted a special late curfew just this Wednesday because he'd missed his friend so much. Plus, tomorrow was a half day in school, some kind of teachers' special meeting. Not much schoolwork would be getting done. Noel only lived ten houses down the street, but somehow, Blackstone had been roped into walking the kid home tonight.
He drained the rest of his beer, went to the kitchen and dropped it in the garbage. He could still smell Andrea's chicken casserole. His stomach grumbled. Eyeing the refrigerator, he said, "I'll be back for you in a few." A couple of spoonfuls of cold casserole would soak up the booze and prevent a hangover.
Slipping a Schaefer in his pocket for the walk, he marched upstairs, Andrea saying, "Thank you, Marty," as he passed by the living room.
The door to Brian's bedroom was closed. There were drawings of space battles from Star Wars taped all over it. Blackstone stood there for a moment, admiring the latest one. It showed two X-wing fighters engulfed in flames spiraling into a nearby planet. The kid was good. Maybe he should get him to draw that turtle they always advertised to see if he could make it into art school.
The only flaw in the drawing was in the science of it. You can't have flames in space, Blackstone said to himself, chuckling. The shit he knew thanks to his subscription to Popular Mechanics. It was probably a good idea to encourage Brian to start reading it too. He'd be a man someday, and men needed to know all kinds of shit.
He opened the door without knocking. Brian's Star Wars figures were all over the floor. There was a cardboard box that had been cut up and pasted back together with etchings on the sides so it looked like the big garbage collector that the little Jawas rode around in, searching for scrap metal and droids.
Blackstone sighed again. There was way too much Star Wars trivia rolling around his head for his taste. It was all the kid talked about. They'd gone to the movies to see it five times. He couldn't remember ever seeing a movie five times, not even the ones he loved like The Bridge on the River Kwai or The French Connection.
He kept praying Star Wars would fade away and finally get pulled from the theater, but so far, God wasn't listening. Or if He was, He was taking great delight in Blackstone's suffering.
Brian and Noel were huddled together, making Luke and Vader have a lightsaber fight. The boys looked so much alike, it was scary. Same black hair, same bowl cut, both small for their age with knobby knees. No wonder they'd become inseparable.
"Okay guys, time for Noel to head on home."
The boys groaned, but he only smiled, shrugging as if to say, Don't blame me, I didn't make the rules on this one.
The cold Schaefers had definitely mellowed him a bit.
"Can't he stay for another half hour?" Brian said.
Blackstone tapped his watch. "Your mother promised he'd be home at ten. Come on, time's ticking."
Tonight's episode of Vega$ was a rerun, so he didn't mind missing it. He could always catch the tail end of the CBS movie and zone out before heading up to bed.
"Fine," Brian said, chin on his chest.
Noel, who was always a chipper kid, said, "You want to see what I got for Brian, Mr. Blackstone?"
"Sure, but only if it doesn't take long."
"It won't." The boys pushed the toys and comics on the floor around, searching. Noel uncovered a pair of black glasses and handed them to him.
Noel's perpetual smile widened. "More than that. They're X-ray glasses. I ordered them from a comic book weeks ago. They just came in the mail today. I got one for me and one for Brian."
The cheap plastic glasses were light as a feather. Blackstone expected to see the usual red spiral painted on the lens to give the illusion of something strange and mysterious happening to the wearer. These lenses were clear and dark, like sunglasses.
Brian said, "Yeah, but they don't really work. It kind of gave me a headache."
"That's because you have to get used to them. The manual said that the more you wear them, the deeper you'll see."
Blackstone chuckled. "Or more likely, you'll go cross-eyed. How much did they cost?"
"A dollar each."
He flipped the glasses onto the ruffled bed. "Well, at least you're not out a lot of money."
Noel got into his coat, tucking his own glasses in his pocket. "It kinda hurt my head too, but I'm going to stick with it."
"You know what they say: No pain, no gain." Before he left the room, he said to Brian, "Clean up this mess before your mother gets up here. She'll have a fit."
Yeah, he knows. The kid spent half his life punished because he didn't do all the things he knew he should be doing. Blackstone just shook his head, leading Noel down the stairs.
"Good-bye, Mrs. Blackstone."
Andrea looked up from her baby blanket. "Good night, Noel. Thanks for cheering Brian up."
The walk to Noel's house was bitterly cold. The first snow of winter was coming soon. Blackstone could smell it. He dropped the kid off, exchanged a few pleasantries with Noel's father, who was the manager of a health-food store in the next town over, and headed back home. He took his time, sipping the beer along the way. Before he went inside, he dropped the beer can in the metal garbage pail outside. He didn't want Andrea riding his ass over his not being able to walk a single block without a beer.
She didn't understand. She had a pretty cushy life. Andrea didn't need a few beers to settle down so she could sleep.
As he walked in the door, she was coming down the stairs.
"He's already asleep. Guess he's not ready for prime time yet."
"Guess not. Well, he has four more days to get ready."
"You never had chicken pox, did you?"
He shook his head. "Chicken pox is afraid of me."
Andrea gathered her blanket and yarn and needles in a canvas bag, got up and kissed the top of his balding head. "I'm going up. Don't stay up too late. You don't get to stay home from school tomorrow."
"Don't remind me. I'm just gonna watch a little bit of the news."
He watched her leave in her baggy sweatpants and oversized shirt. He missed the days of lingerie or even better, birthday suits. Having a kid had a way of changing all that.
Another Schaefer would have been nice, but he made it a point not to drink a full sixer on weeknights. It helped make the weekend special. There was nothing good on TV, so he flipped through Reader's Digest until the eleven o'clock news. It started out with the latest namby-pamby nonsense being spewed by the president. Hearing anything about Jimmy Carter set his teeth on edge, so he decided to call it a night.
He peeked in on Brian, nestled so deep under his Fantastic Four comforter that only the top of his head was visible. His X-ray glasses were on the floor. Blackstone picked them up and put them on. He'd always wanted a pair when he was a kid, but his parents refused to get them.
The room darkened and it felt as if his eyes were being stretched. That was the only way he could describe it. A headache instantly bloomed around his forehead.
"Now, that's a look," Andrea said, shuffling down the hall to the bathroom in her puffy pink robe.
"X-ray specs," Blackstone said. "Noel bought a pair for Brian."
"They look like sunglasses, not X-ray glasses."
"Not that there's any such thing as X-ray glasses."
"Well, for what it's worth, they make you look kind of ... cool. Like back when you used to wear those Wayfarers when we were dating."
The pain in his forehead skittered to his temples. Still, he kept them on. He couldn't remember the last time Andrea had said he looked cool.
"You want to cruise around in my Mustang?"
"I'll settle for our Buick."
She laughed, slipping into the bathroom.
But before she disappeared from view, Blackstone thought he saw something that shouldn't have been.
He could have sworn he caught a glimpse of her ratty pajamas under her closed robe.
Another day, another buck. Blackstone's sweat turned to ice the moment he stepped out of the boiling factory into the cold. Everyone's breath came out in great, thick clouds as they filed into the parking lot.
"You coming over for cards Saturday night?" Jack Fortman said. He tossed his metal lunch pail into his car, a Dodge Dart with black primer on two of the quarter panels.
"Does the pope shit in the woods? I'll bring beer and peanuts."
"Just don't get those ones in the shell that are salted. I gotta watch my blood pressure. Though I'm sure that union meeting will bring on full heart failure."
"Then you should try winning a hand every now and then."
"That's why I need to make sure you're coming," Fortman said, chuckling.
It took three cranks of the ignition to get the Buick started. Blackstone flipped the heat on full blast, trying to thaw out. There was an accident on I-98 going home, so a twenty-minute drive took over an hour.
The moment he walked in the door, Andrea was there to greet him. She took his coat and lunch pail and gave him a big kiss on the lips. "I heard about the traffic on the radio."
"Yeah, it was great."
She led him to the kitchen. "Here's a beer. I had to put dinner in the oven to keep it warm. I didn't know when you'd be home."
"Hey Dad," Brian said. He was eating from a foil TV dinner tray. They'd long given up the fight trying to get him to eat normal food. The kid had about four taste buds. TV dinners with veal cutlet, mashed potatoes and something they called a hot brownie accounted for three of them.
"Don't you ever get sick of that?"
Andrea put a chilled beer in his hands and went to the oven.
"Why would I?"
It was a good question. Brian knew the things he liked, and he could indulge in them every day without thinking about all the other stuff he could be missing. Blackstone sometimes envied his son.
"You couldn't at least wait for me?"
"I was starving."
He smelled the pot roast and roasted potatoes and his own hunger went into overdrive. Andrea could cook the holy hell out of a pot roast.
"Yeah, me too."
Dinner was a quiet affair. Andrea knew he needed time to unwind and with Brian home, there was no school to talk about. When Blackstone was done, he went upstairs to smoke a cigarette while he took his post-dinner shit. It was the little things in life that made getting up in the morning worth it.
Going to his bedroom to change, he saw the X-ray glasses on his bedside table. He'd put them there last night, but had forgotten, until now, that strange glimpse of his wife's pajamas under her robe.
"Must have been the beer," he said, picking them up. He put them back on and instantly, the headache returned. Again, there was that feeling of his eyes being pulled like taffy.
He turned around at the sound of footsteps.
"You like them, Dad?" Brian said.
"Like is a very strong word."
"You can keep them. They stink, but they do make you look like a policeman."
Blackstone grinned, pointing his finger at his son like a gun. "Freeze. You're under arrest. So, you thought you'd get away, didn't you?"
Brian held his hands up high, laughing. "I confess. I stole all the Swedish Fish at the corner store."
"I always knew I'd nab you, Swedish Fish bandit."
When he spied his alarm clock, he saw it was almost time for Mork & Mindy. A little mindless entertainment was exactly what he needed tonight, although Brian had done a good job taking the edge off.
"How about instead of jail, you get me a beer and some potato chips?"
Brian ambled downstairs. The one job he liked to do was getting his mother and father their drinks and snacks before TV time.
Blackstone plopped into his lounger, the beer and chips already on the table. He lit up a Marlboro and turned on the TV with the wired remote control.
"You wearing those things again?" Andrea asked.
She pointed at his eyes.
"Christ, I forgot I had them on." The weird sensation must have worn off while he was goofing with Brian.
Excerpted from "Optical Delusion"
Copyright © 2017 Hunter Shea.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Hunter Shea delivers again! One of the most prolific horror authors writing today, Hunter Shea always produces an excellent tale and Optical Delusion - second in his trio of novellas - Mail Order Massacres, is another winner. As with the first book - Just Add Water - it all starts with an advertisement in a comic book. X-Ray specs for only $1. Martin Blackstone's son acquires a pair and, after scolding him for wasting his money, Martin cannot help himself. He has to try them on. The result is a blinding headache, but still he perseveres because it seems the claims they make could just be true. He can see things he shouldn't be able to. He can see straight through objects and he can get some cheap kicks when he looks at a pretty young woman. But the more addicted he becomes, the more the glasses become a part of him, and that's when it all goes horribly wrong. This is a quick, horrifically fun ride and I eagerly await the third in the series.
Is it bad when the first thought after finishing this novella was that it was OK, but it would have been even better if it had been gorier? Seriously, most of the time during the story did it feel like I was waiting for everything to go haywire and when it did was it towards the end of the story, so not much carnage. I found the previous short novella in this series, Just Add Water, to be better, more satisfying to read, especially if like me want a story with lots of deaths and bloodbaths. Now, the story isn't all bad, it not that long and it kept my interest up (despite the lack of gruesome deaths for most of the story) and one could hardly blame Martin for wanting to see some nice naked bodies. Unfortunately, for him didn't it stop there. I also liked the very end of the story. It felt very fitting.
Optical Delusion is the second book of the Mail Order Massacres Trilogy. Although the basic premise is the same (a boy orders one of the "special" items from the back of a comic book), this book is vastly different than the previous one, Just Add Water. Martin marches upstairs one night to gather his son Brian's friend, Noel, and walk him home. As a cheer-up gift for having chicken pox, Noel has purchased himself and Brian x-ray glasses from the back of a comic book. Martin puts on the glasses, which initially make him feel sick. As his wife walks by, he thinks he catches a brief glimpse of her pajamas underneath her robe. Curious, he goes later and takes the glasses and tries again. Soon he can see deeper. And then even deeper. However as the vision on the glasses improves, the glasses become more and more difficult to take off... Another great, quick read. Can't wait for the final installment of the series!