The Lake Monster

“The Lake Monster”
(A Budget Studio Production)
edited by Norman Prentiss

This previously unpublished story, an anonymous “novelization” of a movie written and directed by Bud “Budget” Preston, was scheduled to appear in issue 102 of Monster Project magazine. For more information about the history of this story, and how I uncovered it, see my Editor’s Note after the end of the story—and continue reading to find out about my forthcoming novel, Life in a Haunted House, that fictionalizes elements of Preston’s life and filmography.

A Note on the Text: Where possible I have transcribed the magazine article exactly as it was planned for publication. As editor, I have limited myself to correcting any obvious typographical errors, or inconsistency in spelling of names or places. I have not tampered with the wording, however, and have left intact some of the strange grammatical quirks of the original author (in particular, the fondness for and overuse of ellipses). –Norman Prentiss

“It’s only water.”

Holly stared into the stoppered kitchen sink, filled almost to the brim. She knew Sam was trying to be supportive.

But she’d never liked water.

“Take a deep breath first. Pinch your nose with your fingers. That sometimes helps.”

“No, I need to hold back my hair.”

“I’ll do that.” His hands ran through her hair, gathering the strands behind. Sam’s touch comforted her…the same gentle way he’d touch her head and neck when they sat in the back row of the Bijou Cinema. “You ready?”

“As I’ll ever be.” Holly pinched thumb and forefinger over her nose.

Her face grew larger as she bent closer to the water’s smooth surface. Her hand over her nose and mouth looked ridiculous…like some strange rippling growth that distorted the lower half of her face.

Holly’s reflection stared back, a vague expression of terror in her eyes…a warning.

Don’t do this.

Closer…nearly breaking the surface…

For an instant, the reflected hand over her mouth looked wrong. Dark scales crusted over her skin…her fingers wriggled like tentacles…

She closed her eyes. An icy chill tingled against her skin.

The surface of calm water is as smooth as glass. Holly imagined her face pressed against glass…tight…tighter…the glass resisting, and the weight of her face pushing harder…until the glass finally shattered, ripping into razor sharp crystals that forced cold needles beneath her skin, all along her face, and especially into her eyes, popping and tearing the jelly…so her world would grow dark with agonizing pain.

The cold water…the tingle like needles…

She opened her eyes, not out of bravery…simply to confirm she could still see.

And it wasn’t so bad. She’d scrubbed the sink clean earlier, and the metal basin glimmered beneath. Lines of light wavered with the motion of the cool liquid, and her eyes didn’t sting as much as she’d expected they would.

Twenty seconds already, by her estimate. She’d count to ten then come up for air.

The stopper-plug made a dark spot at the center of her vision. The water softened the smooth rubber, giving it the texture of an eel’s skin.

The slimy round shape began to uncoil. Two bubble-white eyes opened at one end, and a lamprey mouth spread its tooth-suckered lips as the shape undulated upward.

It disappeared beneath Holly’s field of vision. She felt a rough tap against her fingers, where they covered her nose and mouth.

Holly pulled back, struggling to lift her head out of the water…

But she couldn’t move. Sam held her head in place.

Testing her…? Encouraging her to stay underwater for a longer time…?

Trying to drown her?

Thirty seconds.

She pinched her nose tighter…squeezed her fingers together…pursed her mouth into a thin line.

With her other arm, she reached behind and above, swinging at Sam in an attempt to batter him away.

The dark eel shape pushed at the space between her fingers, widening the gap. Holly shook her head, trying to break Sam’s grip.

It felt like another eel was oozing beneath her cupped hand, forcing its way into the corner of her mouth.

Forty seconds.

A gag reflex caused her to exhale a sputter of thin bubbles. The water grew cloudy now…spots formed in her vision, a sign she was losing consciousness.

A terrible ooze slithered between her fingers, and she felt a thick, slimy tube force its way into her left nostril. She tried to blow it out with a hard snort, but a nervous twitch made her inhale instead, drawing the eel deeper into her nasal cavity.

It filled her…through her nose, then dangling down the back of her throat…and the other one slithering past her gums and through her gnashed teeth, a hideous warm slime dragged over her tongue.

Fifty seconds.

Sam was killing her. She shook her head side to side, thinking, No…No…

As she thought those words, her mouth opened as if to speak them. Water rushed in…along with more dark, slimy shapes…like a wet rag stuffed further into her mouth, pushing small rocks and nails and dry twigs deep into the back of her throat.

Sixty seconds.

She’d breathed in too much water. She didn’t doubt that she would drown.

The easiest thing would be to let go.

Her vision grew darker. She closed her eyes, welcoming…

Air. She needed air, and she would fight for it. With renewed strength, she flung her head back, lifting it from the water with a desperate gasp.

Sam held back the strands of her hair with a loose, gentle grip. “There you go. That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

Holly twisted away from him, overwhelmed with a wrenching cough…that dreadful dry nausea when nothing comes up. She wiped at her mouth, pinched again at her nose…sputtered and spit as if to expel some rancid ichor from her body.

“Hey,” Sam said. “What’s wrong?”

And he genuinely seemed surprised.

#

Sam unplugged the stopper. A thin waterspout formed, twisting in a strange dance as the liquid circled the drain.

The last bit of water gurgled as it went down.

Holly called out to him from the den. “You’re certain I was only under for twenty seconds?”

“Twenty, tops. I really think it was more like fifteen.” He opened the refrigerator and grabbed two cans of cola, taking them into the next room.

He didn’t dare offer her a glass of water.

She sat with a damp towel wrapped around her neck. If somebody just dropped by the house, they might have thought Holly had just dried off after a shower. She sat perfectly composed, and her breaths were calm and steady.

Nothing like she’d been a few minutes before…eyes wide, gasping, body shaking. Shouting at him…accusing him of trying to kill her.

He handed her a can of soda pop. She flinched slightly when he pulled the tab on his own. Sam wasn’t sure if he should join her at the sofa, so he took the armchair across from her.

“Tell me again what happened,” Holly said. “Don’t leave anything out.”

“You were doing great,” he told her. “You held your nose then put your face completely underwater. I was really proud of you. It was something…you told me…you were always afraid to do.”

“And then I just started shaking…? Thrashing my head around…?”

“No, not at all.” He took a sip of his cola, noticing Holly hadn’t touched hers…she’d set the unopened can on the top of her knee. “You were perfectly still the full fifteen seconds.” He noticed she wanted to contradict his estimate, so he explained: “I’m used to keeping track of time like this. It’s part of our training on the swim team.”

“It seemed to last so much longer.”

“Fifteen seconds. Right at the end…you pulled your head straight up all of a sudden. I’d been holding your hair to keep it from getting too wet…barely touching you, really…and you spun around like I’d been trying to strangle you.”

“I’m sorry,” Holly said. “I thought something horrible was happening to me. It’s not your fault.”

But maybe it was. “I shouldn’t have put pressure on you. I just thought, you know, me being on the swim team and all… It just seemed weird that you’d be afraid of water. I was hoping it might be something we could do together. I could teach you.”

Holly attempted a weak smile, partly to banish her recent panic. “It already is something we do together. I go to your swim meets and cheer you on from the bleachers. That’s as close as I want to get to a swimming pool, okay? At least for now.”

“Sure.” Sam noticed how she’d left an opening…a suggestion that she might like to try again someday. But things had gone so badly this time. “It comes so easily to me, you know? Even when I was a little kid, my parents said I took to water like a fish. I hadn’t realized how difficult this would be for you.”

“A phobia is like that,” Holly said. She lifted the soda can, staring into the label like it was some kind of crystal ball. “It defies logic. It’s almost impossible to explain to other people.”

Sam nodded, doing his best to appear like he understood…but some skepticism must have remained in his expression.

Holly stood up decisively. “You want to know why I’m so scared of water? I’ll tell you. Better yet, I’ll show you.”

#

A dragonfly hovered over the calm surface of a wide, deep lake. A frog sat on a large rock at the edge of the water…its throat expanding into a warty balloon…then contracting. As if startled, the frog jumped and dove into the water, sending out concentric ripples.

For a brief moment, the rhythmic strum of cicadas halted…crickets ceased to chirp.

Because the snap of twigs and steady, heavy footsteps signaled the approach of intruders.

The worst kind of intruders: humans.

A female led the way. Her legs and arms were pink and bare, and long brown hair fell over and slightly past her shoulders. She carried a large rag.

A male companion followed. His body was tall and lean, and his hair was cropped close.

The female moved her mouth and strange squeaking sounds came out of it. She unfolded her rag, waving the cloth in the air before draping it over the large overhanging rock. She sat down on the cloth, then hugged her knees close to her chest.

The male sat beside her, half on the cloth, half off. He picked up a small stone and skimmed it at the lake. It bounced several times over the water’s surface, then sank to the bottom.

#

“When I was younger,” Holly said, “I came here sometimes with my brother.” A long, leafy strand of grass had grown through a cracked section of rock at the edge of her towel. She uprooted the strand and absently picked at it as she spoke…wrapping it around her finger…tearing off a small strip…digging a fingernail into the green leaf.

“He was two years younger than me, almost. But he was always more confident, and liked to act like he was the older one.”

“Guys can be like that,” Sam offered. “We like to be protective of our sisters.”

“Oh, he wasn’t protective.” She hugged her legs even closer to her chest…a kind of upright fetal position. She sat sideways to the water, as if wanting to keep the lake behind her, but needing to keep one eye on it as well. “He was sadistic.”

And as Holly spoke to her boyfriend, the memory of that terrible day came rushing back.

The day when she was only twelve years old, and her brother told the story of a creature dressed like a man, with the head of a monstrous fish.

#

Russell walked along the edge of the large rock, arms out, teetering as he put one foot directly in front of the other.

“Careful,” young Holly said. “If you fall in the lake, I won’t be able to rescue you.”

“That so?” Russell waved his arms in wide circles, pretending to lose his balance. “I bet if I fell in, I’d just learn to swim, to save myself. That’s how it works for a lot of people.”

“Nobody would ever drown if that was true.”

“There’s also those stories of mothers who get extra strength during a crisis…They’re able to lift a car if that’s the only way to protect their baby.” He grunted and mimed the action…a scrawny ten-year-old in dungarees and a T-shirt, assuming a Charles Atlas muscle-man pose. “If you want to save me, you will.”

“What if I don’t want to?”

“That would be your choice, sister dear.” He dropped the car he was lifting, imagining that it rolled off the rock and into the lake. “I guess you’ll be an only child.”

“That’s a legend, anyway,” Holly said. “About the woman lifting the car. Either that, or they exaggerated. It was probably a bicycle or a go-cart.”

“You’re wrong,” Russell said. “It was actually a tank, I think. Or a school bus.”

“Why not make it an airplane?”

“It happened with an airplane once. But that time was two moms, saving two babies.”

“I’m sure.” Holly moved closer to the large rock that her brother had treated as an obstacle course. She claimed a flat section farthest from the water and sat down.

She got annoyed with Russell’s stories…the way he’d add new ridiculous details, not admitting they were untrue…partly out of fun, but partly out of spite. He’d never let his sister have the final word. Never let her be right.

He sat down next to her, a mischievous gleam in his eyes. “You’re wrong about why people drown,” Russell said. “It’s not because they can’t swim. Everybody learns to swim by instinct, if they need to. No, it’s because there’s something in the water…something alive.”

Russell was headed into one of his more elaborate creations, she knew. As his sister, she was often a captive audience…especially on these long summer days when there was nothing good on TV, and she didn’t have plans with friends. Russell would spin out some tall tale, usually borrowed from a comic book or movie…insisting he’d heard the “true” story at school.

“My friend Dwayne told me about a family that lived on the other side of the woods here. The mom and dad both drowned in the lake. They were both expert swimmers, and their son couldn’t figure out what happened.

“The police wouldn’t give him any information. His dead dad’s sister moved in to help raise the poor kid, and she warned him not to go anywhere near the lake.

“Of course, the warning wasn’t necessary. Why would he want to visit a place that had such awful associations for him? He sure didn’t want to stand and stare at the water that swallowed up both his parents.”

As if to punctuate his story, Russell picked up two stray stones…one for each of the parents…and tossed them toward the water. They hit with two distinct splashes.

“But the aunt’s expression was so odd whenever she mentioned the lake…like she knew more than she was telling.

“So the boy kept his ears open. Sometimes he’d bring up the lake himself, and his friends would change the subject. Sure, they’d feel awkward talking about the place where the kid’s parents died…but it was the same as with the aunt, too. They knew more than they were telling.

“One day, after he mentioned the lake…and his friends changed the subject…the boy got mad and yelled at them…and stormed out of the room.

“But he didn’t go far. He only pretended to get really mad, to make his friends keep talking. The boy hid in the next room and listened.

“That’s when he heard about the Lake Monster.”

Young Holly rolled her eyes. She waved her hands in front of her as if pushing the story away…dismissing it.

“You don’t believe in monsters,” Russell said. “Of course you don’t. And that boy didn’t either.

“But something had killed his parents. His parents, who were expert swimmers. So he kept an open mind. He kept listening.

“And he found out a lot of other people have drowned in this lake. Not recently, or you would hear more about it. But if you go way back, look in old newspapers…a lot of strange stuff happened.

“We all know Loch Ness in Scotland has a dinosaur in it. Our town’s lake has its own monster…quite a bit smaller…the size of a man.

“But with the head of a giant fish. It’s lived in this lake for many, many years.

“And as the boy eavesdropped on his friends, he learned what his mom and dad must have done. He learned how to summon this monster from the deep.”

Russell slid off the rock and scavenged in surrounding dirt and gravel. “You take stones like these. Flat. Skimming stones.

“You have to fling them at the lake, side-armed, so they skim the surface. Not like those two rocks I tossed in earlier. They have to bounce at least five times. You need to do it that way, five times in a row…which can be a pretty tough trick…but that’s how you summon the Lake Monster.

“That boy wasn’t so good at skimming. He could get to five or even six a couple times, but never enough times in a row.

“He worked at it all day, then late into the evening.

“It got dark. And he got better with practice.

“The stones bounced across the surface of the lake. One…two…three…four…five.

“After many attempts, he finally reached four times in a row, almost at the goal.

“He leaned over the water. The closer he stood to the lake’s edge, the better angle he had for his side-arm throw.

“The boy flung the flat stone.

“It had grown so dark outside, that his eyes couldn’t follow the stone’s journey to its end. He had to listen and count each blip as it bounced off the water”

“Blip…blip…blip…blip.”

Russell paused for dramatic effect. Waited. Waited.

“Blip,” he said.

“Then nothing. The woods were completely silent.

“The boy leaned over the dark lake. He listened as hard as he could…tried to see any fresh ripple in the lake’s surface.

“Two white stones appeared at the center of the lake.” Russell lifted index fingers on either side of his face. “A head’s distance apart. They began to rise from the water.

“The stones blinked. Because they were eyes. Bubble eyes on stalks, like you’d find on some exotic fish.

“As the stalk-eyes danced up from the water, a fish head emerged from beneath…a green scaled face with a wide red-rimmed mouth that opened and closed in a hungry rhythm.

“The creature’s head was about the size of a human’s…which made sense after what followed. The Lake Monster moved closer as it rose from the water, and it didn’t glide or swim gracefully.

“It seemed like it walked. And this is the weird part…”

“Oh, this is the weird part,” Holly said, unable to contain her skepticism.

“Yes, because there were small fins on each side of the creature’s neck, but below that was…a shirt collar. Buttoned tight and soaking wet, but a regular dress shirt, and a suitcoat overtop that.

“The Lake Monster was part fish and part man.

“The boy watched…frozen with fear…as the strange creature emerged from the water, closer and closer with malicious steps.

“He knew this Lake Monster had killed his parents.

“And he would be next.”

“Human arms lifted from the water. At the end of each sleeve were green hands covered with scales…webbing between the fingers and sharp claws at the tips.

“Those claws had torn his parents apart. I forgot to mention that the autopsy report showed the boy’s parents had been mauled…much worse damage than any drowning would have caused.

“Partly eaten, too.

“The Lake Monster’s mouth opened and closed…opened and closed.

“The boy stood at the edge of the lake, almost within reach of those arms…those flexing fingers with sharp claws at the tips.”

Russell took one of the flat stones and side-armed it at the lake. It skimmed expertly along, bouncing five times.

#

“Well?”

Her brother didn’t respond, so Holly clarified her question. “What happened to the boy? Did the monster get him?”

“Of course not, you silly. He got away, or how else would we have heard his story?”

“The true story,” young Holly said. “And I’m the silly one.”

“Maybe the boy went back later, after he’d spread the story around,” Russell improvised. “I heard he armed himself with a speargun…to try and kill it. But the Lake Monster outsmarted him, and the boy ended up just as dead and shredded as his parents.”

“The boy,” Holly said. “What was his name? …so I can check old newspapers at the library.”

“Oh, you won’t find this story in the papers. The aunt moved out of town, and the sheriff kept things quiet. Didn’t want to cause a panic.”

“Hmm.” Holly turned her head away, feigning that she’d lost interest.

“You believe me,” Russell said. “I know you do.”

“Hmm,” she said again.

“Well, why’d you ask me if the boy escaped? Because you believed the story, that’s why.”

His smug confidence was enough to draw Holly back in. How dare he tell her what she was thinking…again insisting on the truth of a ridiculous story. She couldn’t resist destroying him with logic. “You should tell that one to little kids, and they won’t believe you either. You don’t make any sense. Why would five skimming stones be what summoned the monster? Why would people just stand there and let this slow moving creature get close enough to kill them? And why would it wear a dress suit?” Holly started to laugh…a mocking laugh that she hoped would get under her brother’s skin. “I’m wondering if the creature has his suit dry cleaned when it gets dirty.”

Russell’s face turned a faint shade of pink. She was getting to him.

“And why stop at the suit? Let’s add a necktie. Hey, I heard fishman wore gold-plated cuff links, too. Monogrammed with the initials ‘LM,’ for ‘Lake Monster’.”

Her brother’s face was headed into beet red territory as Holly continued to scoff. Then Russell’s mouth straightened into a tight line, his eyes cold. “I can prove it.”

Prove what? That she believed him? …or that there actually was a monster in their town’s lake?

Russell shook his closed fist. The stones he clenched rattled against each other. “I already did the first toss. Four more, and you’ll see who’s right.”

He stretched his legs out in front then dropped off the rock, moving quickly to the lake’s edge. Before he’d even stopped, one arm out, he flung another flat stone at the water. It bounced five or six times then out of sight.

Russell turned around, expecting she’d be impressed with his “smooth move.” She didn’t give him the satisfaction.

Her brother shrugged, then skimmed another. “That makes three.”

Holly roused herself off the rock and walked part-way to the water…still keeping some distance.

Russell looked behind…faintly registered her movement. He blew on his closed fist, the way he must have seen TV gamblers blow on dice before the big-money throw.

The fourth stone skipped easily across the surface, again meeting the required number of bounces.

His throws were pretty good. Holly wondered if he’d visited the lake by himself on previous summer afternoons, to practice.

Russell turned around holding out his closed fist. “Why don’t you try the next one?”

“No thanks.” But she moved closer, curious.

“I get it. You’re a girl. You couldn’t skim five times. Even with my best stone.”

“I’m sure I could.”

Russell shook his fist. “Oh, well then…you’ve proved my point. You won’t do it, because you’re scared. You’re scared you’ll summon the Lake Monster.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” With that, she crossed the distance between them. She held out an impatient, open palm, and her brother dropped the stone into it.

He stepped aside, giving her clear access to the lake.

“Don’t throw it into the water,” he said, coaching her. “Aim parallel to the surface. Fling it really hard.”

“I know,” she said. “I watched you.”

She stood right at the water’s edge, one foot on dry gravel, the other sinking in mud. Her right arm hung over the lake. She cocked it back…flung the stone.

Blip…blip…blip…

She was surprised at the beauty of the motion…how satisfying it was the way the stone skipped the surface…like magic. It was a dumb thing, she’d thought, a boy’s dumb thing…and yet it turned out to be so much fun.

And she was actually good at it.

Blip…

She’d made it to four, and she knew she would hit the magic number…in one instant proving she was as good as Russell was, proving his story was dumb, proving she wasn’t scared.

But maybe, at the back of her mind, thinking “What if…? What if she actually summoned a monster?”

Time slowed to a standstill. She watched for the distant fifth bounce of the pebble.

She never saw it.

Her brother pushed her into the water.

#

How long was young Holly under? She couldn’t swim.

But that wasn’t why she almost drowned.

She almost drowned because something grabbed her.

#

She was a stone…but not a skimming stone…more like a heavy round ball that dropped…down, down a lake deeper than it seemed from above, down a cloudy mix of water and brown sludge…and she opened her mouth to scream and she tasted muck and filth…gagged and coughed…bubbles and frothy spray spreading from her mouth and nostrils, trailing up to a surface that seemed farther and farther above her…a low seashell hum in her ears…a pressure building there, and also in her eyes…her eyes stinging, too, so she closed them…hoping to shut out her awareness…block the idea that she couldn’t breathe…that the waving of her arms didn’t slow her descent…that the swivel of her legs didn’t work either, that she couldn’t find a lake bed to kick against, propel her upward…and then her legs slammed together…a strange current wrenching them closed, like the hug of arms…and the arms squeezed tighter, pulling her down as her breath began to fail…these tight arms, like an adult’s arms…rough like sandpaper against her skin, or rough like the scratch of a tweed sportscoat…and Holly thought of a stupid story her brother once told, unbelievable, about some monster beneath the lake, dressed as if for a business interview…too implausible to scare anyone…but the arms slid higher, encircling her torso, climbing her…until a gritty pressure washed over her face in a warm wave…and a slug trail ran along one cheek, then the other…so that, on reflex, Holly opened her eyes, saw they weren’t sea slugs, but were bubble-eyes on stalks…and she saw a monstrous fish head so large, so close to her own, its massive maw opening wide as if to swallow her whole…

#

Older now, Holly sat on a towel next to that same lake, finishing her story.

She held her hands in front of her face, indicating the size of the fish creature she saw.

Or thought she saw.

“What happened?” her boyfriend asked…Sam, captain of the college swim team.

“That’s when I died,” Holly said.

And she was gone. The towel lay empty on the rock next to where he sat. Sam put his hand on the towel, felt for heat where her warm body had been sitting moments before. The fabric was cool to the touch. He stared at the lake and the woods around him, seeming so much emptier now…and completely silent.

“Not really,” Holly said, sitting where she’d been before. “I mean, I died like you might die in a dream. With absolutely certainty that it happened…that my life had completely slipped away.”

Sam was overwhelmed with confusion. “But how did you get out? You said you couldn’t swim…”

“And my brother couldn’t, either. So nobody to save me…which I’m sure contributed to my frantic state of mind.” She paused as if needing to catch her breath.

Russell worried for a moment that she’d disappear again…if she couldn’t provide a plausible explanation for how she survived.

“As far as I knew, my brother couldn’t swim,” Holly said. “I’d wondered if he’d been to the lake by himself, practicing how to skim stones. Which he had, I’m sure. But he’d also been teaching himself how to swim.”

Russell nodded. “So…so he could save you.”

“Yep. Like I told you, my little brother was sadistic. But he wasn’t a killer.”

“Wow.” Russell didn’t know what else to say. He reached out to her…touched her hair and the back of her neck as a gesture of comfort.

“I’ve never told anybody,” Holly said. “Russell made me promise not to. Which always felt like a threat…though it was supposed to be out of gratitude, since he saved my life.”

“After endangering your life to begin with.”

“Oh, I know. I figured he’d been planning the whole thing for weeks…the made-up story, the stones, daring me to stand close to the water. Russell hadn’t planned on the Lake Monster actually showing up, though.”

“In your head, you mean.”

“Uh-huh. All in my head. It was so awful and traumatic, so real…I had scratches on my legs, too, from the monster’s claws.” She ran her hands over the legs of her pants suit, as if smoothing over scars. “I’m sure I got caught in some driftwood or something.”

Sam had always wondered why she never wore a bathing suit, or a short skirt.

“From that moment on,” she continued, “I’ve been afraid of water. Of drowning, I guess. And that fear was what kept me quiet about my brother’s cruelty…because I couldn’t explain it. Not to my parents, not to anyone. I was so proud of my common sense, my logic. There was no way I’d admit to believing I’d seen a monster.”

Holly opened her palm. She held the leafy strand of grass she’d plucked earlier, now twisted and crumpled…torn into nervous shreds.

“I’d like to have a talk with your brother.” Sam imagined taking him behind the gymnasium, punching him repeatedly in the face. Giving him something to be scared about.

“It was a long time ago. Russell actually got better after that. He would help make excuses for me…so our family wouldn’t visit Ocean City or rent a sailboat for the weekend. We became allies.”

“It’s his fault,” Sam insisted. “Your phobia. I know siblings don’t always get along… but for a kid to plan something that awful…that elaborate…”

“Apparently he wasn’t as creative as I’d always thought. Years later, I’d gone to a bonfire party with friends from my high school. There was a group of guys from across town…older guys, so definitely not in the social circle my brother would ever have run across.”

Holly pulled her legs close again, her body turned away from the lake, but her head tilted to keep one wary eye on the water’s calm surface.

“People were drinking and singing songs, and eventually they started telling stories. I overheard someone repeat the same legend I thought my brother invented. The exact same monster story.” She pointed over her shoulder. “About this lake.”

Holly rubbed at her pants leg again, smoothing the fabric.

“I almost fainted. I insisted my friends needed to drive me home.”

Russell moved closer, trying to position his body so it blocked her view of the water.

“The Lake Monster is real, I thought to myself at the time.”

He hugged her close. Her last words were muffled as she spoke them into his shoulder.

“I’ve seen it. It grabbed me.”

#

As Sam walked her home, the evening twilight was fading towards dark.

“You sure you’ll be alright?” He held the screen door as Holly fished the house keys from the front pocket of her slacks.

“I’ll be fine.” She held the wadded up towel beneath one arm as she unlocked the door. A passerby might have assumed she’d come home after a refreshing day at the beach. “I just need some rest. My brother gets off the evening shift in about an hour…he’ll keep an eye on me.”

“Russell.” Sam didn’t hide the scorn in his voice.

“He’s better now. Trust me.” She leaned closer, kissed Sam on the cheek.

He smiled, acknowledging the kiss. “I’m glad you told me about the lake. It explains a lot.”

“Good to hear I didn’t scare you off.”

In that moment, admiring her generous smile, her sweet kiss still damp on his cheek, Sam could almost believe she was the same old Holly…the girl he’d fallen in love with…fun, a bit quirky, but always rational…certainly not the type to believe schoolboy legends about monsters.

“ ’Night, Sam.” She stepped inside, taking a quick glace back at him while she closed the door.

Sam waited a minute, then stepped off the porch. He followed the windows of the house, watching for lights to go on as Holly walked through.

“The kitchen,” he said aloud as that light flicked on. Faintly, a refrigerator door rattled as it opened, then closed.

“Her bedroom,” as that light flicked on at the corner of the house. Was she taking a nap right away? …or simply turning on as many lights as possible, to chase off the coming dark?

Sam checked the time on his watch, then ducked behind a tree at the side of the house.

He kneeled down, retrieved a cigarette from the pack in his front pocket. He lit a match, then blew out a few rings of smoke.

While he waited, he sifted through dirt at the base of the tree…and uncovered a few flat stones. He weighed them in his hand, rolled them over each other…imagined which was the best for skimming across the surface of a lake.

#

At night, the undisturbed lake is dark…its surface seems as solid as a highway road.

The woods around are also dark, but night air fills with the buzz of insects…an occasional rustle as a tiny mammal skitters through a pile of fallen leaves.

A human arm waves over the dark lake. In a smooth motion, it flings a small stone over the surface. Blips and ripples glow with uncanny light as they punctuate the glassy calm.

Another stone…then another.

Two more…

The arm drops. The human steps back from the lake, remaining in shadow.

A larger disturbance appears at the center of the lake.

The bubbles of two eyes…two summoned eyes…rise from the depths on two wavering stalks.

#

A tan station wagon pulled into the driveway. The man who stepped out of the car wore gray-blue trousers and a smeared white shirt with his name, Russell, embroidered over the front pocket. His slicked-back hair was still mussed from the paper cap he’d removed seconds earlier, now crumpled in his hand.

Russell’s shoulders slumped as he dragged himself toward the front door. He was hoping for a quiet evening.

Then footsteps thudded the ground behind him…racing forward…

#

A human shape loped through the woods.

Part human, at least.

The torso was covered with a button-down shirt and jacket…woolen trousers covered long, awkward legs.

Water dripped off the soaked clothing, plashing onto the dry forest path.

Stalk eyes jostled and waved as the creature stumbled over unfamiliar ground. Its oversized head perched heavy above squared shoulders, bobbing from side to side as the jutting fish-mouth gasped open.

The Lake Monster’s arms swung at each side, webbed fingers flexing at the ends of tailored sleeves…claws shredding at empty air.

#

Holly’s brother turned around just in time.

Sam was planning to tackle him from behind, but he stopped short. Football wasn’t exactly his sport, anyway. He should give Russell a chance to explain himself.

“She told me what you did,” Sam said. “When you were younger.”

“That so?” Russell stood straight, pushing his legs slightly apart…assuming a defensive posture. He was a bigger guy than Sam had expected…muscled from unloading furniture in the stock room, or hauling junk, or whatever it was the guy did.

“Don’t play dumb,” Sam said. “You really messed with her head. The poor kid.”

“It isn’t any of your business.” Such a smug dismissal. Sam wished he had tackled him after all. Maybe even clocked him one before he turned around.

“It is definitely my business. I’m…”

“I know who you are.” Again that dismissive tone…like he was deliberately trying to get under Sam’s skin.

“Listen, I’ve been giving you the benefit of the doubt,” Sam said, making one last attempt to reason with the guy. “Holly told me you’ve gotten better.”

“I don’t need you to parrot my sister. I know what she thinks of me.” The corner of his mouth lifted in a smirk. “And of you.”

That did it. Not only the guy’s current rudeness, but his lack of remorse for the cruel trick he’d once played on Holly.

Sam lunged forward, fist cocked, aiming a punch at Russell’s smirking mouth.

#

A noise woke her.

Footsteps in slow rhythm, like the drip of a faucet…distant splashes in the hallway outside the closed door of her bedroom.

Holly sat up in bed. “What time…?” The overhead light was on, so she’d gone to sleep early. She still wore her clothes from earlier in the day, including her shoes, and she hadn’t even bothered to pull down the covers. Her fogged memories started to return. She’d been to the lake with Sam. She’d told him that nightmare story from her childhood.

Each wet footstep made a heavier splash as it moved closer to her room. Holly stared at the bedroom door…afraid it would burst open.

Because she knew what would be on the other side…what hideous webbed feet would slap and squelch against the wooden floorboards.

You could estimate a man’s weight by the sound of his tread…and those steps were loud, even through the closed door. The creature was too heavy. It would overpower her.

Another wet splash as a webbed foot hit…followed by an oozy suction as it lifted from the floor.

Holly considered the window…would she be able to open it in time, pull up the screen, squeeze through it and escape?

Or the dresser…should she push that over the door first, to buy herself more time?

She realized she no longer heard the footsteps. Perhaps the creature had gone away….

Perhaps it stood just outside her room.

As she considered what to do, a pool of water began to form underneath the door.

The pool spread into the room…reaching out in a thin sheen, almost to where her feet hung off the side of the bed.

The musty odor of the lake assaulted her. Holly put her hand over her nose and mouth.

She stood up, and water parted around her shoes.

In the hallway, a new sound commenced…a fluttering…a burbling patter, like an infant trying to speak.

The sound seemed less threatening than the earlier footsteps…softer, yet insistent.

So insistent that she felt compelled to act. Against any sensible caution, Holly stood and crossed to the door, her shoes squelching through the thin pool of water…she reached for the doorknob.

More fluttering from the other side…a desperate, wet sputter.

She opened the door.

An extra surge of cloudy water lapped over the threshold…a few tiny shapes wriggled in the foul liquid.

More of these shapes wriggled on the hallway floor. Tiny shapes, gasping and flopping in insufficient water. Suicidal fish that had leapt to their deaths from some nightmare aquarium.

They were the size of pet-shop goldfish…but were not the lovely storefront attractions whose scales would glow as if from some internal light, a shimmer of remarkable colors.

No…these were fish that lived in shadows…coarse, gray-black monstrosities that lurked beneath rocks. The most obvious features were their cold, searching eyes…hideous whiskers over a lamprey mouth…dark, tattered fins with an awful fuzz of bluish mold.

The fish were dying slowly. The squirm of their death throes must have made the footstep sound she’d misinterpreted earlier.

One of them flopped out of the water and landed over the laced top of her left tennis shoe. Fish fins flailed, and a tiny mouth gasped beneath stiff whiskers.

Holly leaned over to inspect the strange creature. Its face looked more human than she’d initially thought…like a frightened old man.

The tattered fins looked more like arms. The tail seemed to split into two legs.

The creature rolled and flailed. Repulsed, Holly raised her other shoe and held it in position, preparing to crush the tiny fish.

She hesitated for a moment, then brought one foot down atop the other.

In that moment of hesitation, the fish scurried out of harm’s way…

It rolled up the length of her shoe…and up the open cuff of her pant leg.

She screamed, slapping at her shin, shaking the leg and hoping to force out the awful slug-slime that seemed to crawl higher and higher.

A lump beneath the fabric of her pants…a warm wet sensation…spreading.

In a panic, Holly unfastened her pants and pulled them down…she struggled to slide them over her shoes, nearly falling over.

She flung the article of clothing away from her. It landed half inside the room, half out.

Most of the fluttering sounds were muffled…the dying fish now covered by a layer of clothing.

Holly noticed wriggling bumps beneath the dampening cloth. She straddled the threshold to her bedroom, and stepped on each bump, one by one, until the wriggling stopped.

#

In darkness, the Lake Monster continued its unsteady steps along the earth.

The ground beneath changed from the rocky mud of the forest…to the unkempt weeds of a wide field…to the manicured lawns, warm asphalt, and hard sidewalks of a suburban neighborhood.

It passed tiny spots of captured fire, enclosed in smooth bubbles atop long poles…or attached like barnacles to boxy, cave-like structures.

The humans had retreated to their dwellings. All was quiet.

Except for a nearby struggle. Sound carried strangely in air…a loose shimmer without an accompanying pressure against the ear…but the Lake Monster knew these were expressions of rage.

Rage was a familiar emotion.

In the sloping lawn that fronted the nearest structure, two human males ran at each other with raised, stiff-jointed tentacles. The Lake Monster did not know why they were fighting. Human customs were a mystery.

Perhaps, when they were done, the victor would consume the defeated enemy. Such was the way of the lake.

A scavenger could lie in wait, judging the battle’s progress…deciding whether or not to enter the fray.

#

Holly jumped up in bed, gasping for air.

She must have had a bad dream. She remembered…that horrible, choking experiment with Sam…the walk she’d taken with him to the lake…to the source of her worst nightmares.

The overhead light was still on. Worn out, she’d come home and gone straight to bed, lying atop the covers. She’d been so tired, she only had strength to take off her pants. She fell asleep in her shirt top, which hung below her waist and modestly covered her undergarments.

Her bare legs stretched out beneath the shirt. She ran her fingers along the skin, tracing the faint, familiar pattern of scars that cross-hatched her legs.

Scars from her childhood, when she’d been caught in a tangle of undersea driftwood…or held by the groping claws of the Lake Monster.

She noticed the door to her bedroom was open.

Her pants lay across the doorway. The fabric looked dark…and the wood of her bedroom floor seemed too shiny.

Water!

Just a thin layer, but where was it coming from? Had it rained while she slept, water leaking through the roof?

Holly jumped out of bed, grabbed a dry pair of pants from her closet and shimmied into it. She pushed her bare feet into slip-on flats, then rushed into the hallway.

The layer of water was thin, so wouldn’t likely cause much damage. She was lucky she caught it in time…who knows what would have happened if she’d continued sleeping?

She tried to guess the source. The bathroom? No…a hissing sound from the kitchen…

Holly rushed to the kitchen sink. The faucet was turned to full strength. The stoppered basin continued to overflow, sending a slow, steady stream down the kitchen floor, down the hallway and into her bedroom

Had she turned it on before she’d gone to sleep? Then forgot to turn it off?

She twisted the faucet to “off”…reached into the deep basin and pulled out the rubber stopper.

Water swirled, then gurgled down the drain. She felt it in the back of her throat.

A loud thump smacked against the side of the house.

#

One of the humans had fallen against the boxy structure. It shook a round head, waved both upper limbs in up a stiff gesture, hoping to ward off the next attack. The other male approached.

The Lake Monster, watching, tensed its webbed fingers…extended its claws…prepared to strike.

#

Voices shouted in contention outside Holly’s front door. She thought she recognized each of the men, but she didn’t want to take any chances.

She opened her silverware drawer and searched for a weapon…any weapon.

Her fingers closed around the wooden handle of a long, serrated knife.

Holly moved cautiously to the front door. She flipped the switch for the porch light.

The light seemed to agitate the combatants. She heard a masculine grunt…followed by a dull thump and another crash.

She opened the door.

Her first shock was her brother, home from his evening shift but his work clothes more scuffed than usual. A trickle of blood ran from his nose, and from one corner of his mouth.

And then her boyfriend, looking even worse…his polo shirt torn, hair in a crazed mess, even more blood on his face…the swell of bruises beginning to rise beneath each eye.

Sam had left her home hours earlier. Why had he come back? And why was he fighting with Russell?

In the back of her mind, an answer struggled to take form. Something about the lake…her brother’s cruel story…how Sam reacted when she’d told him.

Caught up in their fight, neither of them seemed to notice her.

They were really going at it. Holly knew she needed to get them to stop, before one of them got seriously hurt.

She wondered how she could best interfere…whose side should she take in the argument.

Where did her loyalties lie?

And that was when the next shock hit…far more severe than the others.

Because she saw it at the edge of the lawn…shambling closer…

A creature dressed like a man, with the head of a monstrous fish.

#

“The Lake Monster!”

Sam had been lost in the daze of the fight, but his girlfriend’s voice brought him back to his senses.

Holly stood on the porch. She was no doubt horrified to see him fighting with her brother, so a rush of shame washed over him…but she wasn’t looking at him or Russell.

She was pointing behind them, her eyes wide with terror.

And the story was still so fresh in his mind…her brother’s malicious prank, which Holly described so vividly…

So vividly that he could almost see it…

Which made him afraid to turn his head now…afraid to follow the path of her outstretched arm.

“Right there,” Holly urged. “Behind you!”

Sam imagined the picture Holly had painted of that terrible incongruous monster…a large fish head, with eyes on stalks…the bizarre human clothing…the webbed hands, fingers tipped with sharp claws.

He turned his head.

With the slow pivot of his neck, he realized he’d let himself be distracted from the fight. Russell’s fist cannonballed forward, a clear shot at his face…

And behind that…closing the distance and growing larger…the approaching face of an impossible monstrosity.

Then blackness.

#

She screamed in warning, pointed out the danger and stamped her feet, but neither of them would listen.

The Lake Monster lumbered closer. Desperate, Holly repeated the warning.

Her brother ignored her, but she finally broke through to Sam. Her boyfriend turned his head to acknowledge her.

Don’t look at me, she though. Look at the Monster…

It was so close, lifting powerful arms…flexed claws ready to slash at flesh.

Sam emerged from the fight, his eyes widening as he saw…he saw…

Too late. Russell punched her boyfriend, knocking him to the ground.

“You fool.” She slumped to the floor of the porch, all energy draining from her. Russell smiled in absurd triumph, so proud of himself…oblivious to the stalk-eyed terror that approached. “Oh, you stupid fool.”

The Lake Monster grabbed her brother, twisting his body around as if it were a toy…its arms lashed at Russell’s neck on both sides, claws tearing bloody gashes into his throat.

Holly fainted.

#

She imagined the Lake Monster carrying her inert body through the neighborhood…into the woods.

Wading into the lake, walking slowly to the deep middle…and the water rising over them until they disappeared beneath…

She drifted…drifted…subtle currents in the water shaking her.

Shaking her…

Her boyfriend was shaking her.

“Holly, wake up. Oh God, Holly, your brother…what happened?”

Her eyelids fluttered. The concrete porch felt stiff against her back. Sam kneeled beside her…large bruises beneath his eyes, bloody lip and nose, a torn shirt. He helped her struggle into a sitting position.

Russell lay face up on the front lawn. His eyes were wide open…and so was his neck. A large pool of blood stained the surrounding grass.

“I tried to warn you both,” Holly said. “What were you fighting about?”

“Never mind that,” Sam said. “Tell me what happened to Russell.”

“You know what happened.”

He sat next to her on the top step of the porch. “I was unconscious. You had called out…I looked at you…and your brother threw a punch.”

“But before that,” Holly said. “You saw it, didn’t you?”

Sam looked at the ground, at the unmoving body, at the shredded flesh of Russell’s neck. He stared beyond…at the section of lawn where Holly had pointed. Now, there was nothing there. But before…?

An unspeakable memory flashed over his face.

“You saw it,” Holly said. “Just as I described.”

Sam nodded. “Just as you described.”

She breathed out a sigh of relief at the confirmation.

“But only for a split second,” he added quickly. “It attacked your brother?”

Holly rubbed absently at her pants leg, remembering her own experience with those sharp claws. “His neck…It tore his neck to pieces.” She looked down, registering the stains on her shirtfront…realizing what caused them. “The blood sprayed in the air. An awful spray.”

He put his arm around her…held her a while in silence.

“Nobody will believe us,” he said, his brow furrowed in concentration. “Unless…” Suddenly, he snapped his fingers. “Hey, you were asleep the whole time, okay? I’ll handle things with the police.”

“You can’t…”

“Sure I can. It’s obvious your brother and I were fighting. I’ll tell them a third person snuck up on us in the dark…knocked me out…then went after Russell.”

“You really think they’ll believe that?”

“More than the Lake Monster, yeah. It’s the best story we’ve got. Trust me.”

He helped her stand, and then followed her into the house.

#

Sam headed into the kitchen to rinse off some of the dirt and blood from the fight. The tile was slick from a thin sheen of water in front of the sink, and he almost slipped and fell.

He’d have to ask Holly about that. Later, though. They had more important things to worry about now.

Sam took some ice cubes from the refrigerator…wrapped them in a wash cloth…then held it against his puffy eyes.

He rehearsed a few lines outloud before he picked up the receiver of the wall-mounted phone. “There’s been an accident…No, no…I was attacked…we were attacked. That sounds better. Send an ambulance.”

He dialed the emergency number. The line rang a few times before it connected.

#

A silent ambulance drove off into the night.

No need for the siren…the passenger was beyond medical help.

Sheriff Hazelbury stood beside the bloody section of grass where paramedics had earlier lifted the body onto a stretcher. “We’ll have more questions for you tomorrow.” His tone was comforting, without a hint of accusation. “I’ll probably need to talk with Holly too. Poor girl. She’s sure been through a lot.”

“Yes,” Sam agreed. “Losing her brother like this. Quite a shock.”

“After what happened to her parents,” the Sheriff added. “Oh, you didn’t know? Holly and Russell’s parents disappeared when they were younger. Such a tragedy. We found their clothing by the lake, but never discovered the bodies.”

Sam crossed his arms over his chest as if to ward off a chill. “She never mentioned that.”

“One of my first years on the force. Unsolved case…but at least their Aunt was able to step in…raise the kids, until they were old enough to take care of themselves.”

“Their Aunt…” Sam had been trying so hard to concoct his story of a mysterious attacker…anything to avoid mentioning some absurd local legend. He’d almost talked himself into believing his own account…as if he’d never seen that flash of horror before his world went dark.

The Lake Monster…

“You say you didn’t get a look at the assailant?” And maybe police officers used this trick all the time…repeating a casual question while your guard was down…when you think the interrogation is over.

“No. It was dark. The guy hit me from behind.”

“Funny thing.” Sheriff Hazelbury pointed at his own neck, made a slow parallel motion with his forefinger. “You saw how he was wounded?”

“I didn’t look too closely.”

“Don’t imagine you did. Pretty disturbing.” Again, the slow parallel motion with his forefinger. “Three cuts in each side of the neck. Strange way for a man to kill somebody.”

Another flash of memory…webbed fingers raised in the night air…the sharp claws Holly’s had described…

“Maybe I was wrong,” Sam admitted. “Maybe it was a wild animal.”

“We might have a clearer picture in the morning. Meantime, don’t tamper with the crime scene. Lock yourself up tonight…in case the assailant comes back.” Hazelbury put ironic emphasis on “assailant” this time.

“I will,” Sam promised. “I’ll keep an eye on Holly, too.”

“You do that.”

#

Holly called to him from her bedroom. “Are they gone?”

Sam stood over the kitchen sink, splashing cold water onto his face. He turned off the faucet. “Yes. But they’ll be back.”

Her bedroom door creaked open, and gentle footsteps trod down the dark hallway.

“The sheriff’s asking questions…but if we stick to our story, we’ll be fine.”

“Our story?”

Cool water dripped down his face…trickled over his neck and down his chest. “You were asleep the whole time,” he reminded her.

Light footsteps, closer to the arch of the kitchen entryway. He could almost see her figure emerge from the unlit hallway.

“Thank you, Sam. For everything.”

He smiled. “I’d do anything for you.”

“I’ll never be afraid of water again.” She stepped slowly into the light. She stood with her arms at her sides, hands slightly behind her back. He noticed she’d changed her shirt, as he’d asked…removed the white button-down one that had caught the spray of her brother’s blood…replaced it with a dark blue pullover with an open collar.

A towel was draped around her neck…just like the one she’d worn when they walked to the lake.

“I did it to help him breathe,” Holly said.

She’d changed her shirt…but this one seemed to have blood on it, too.

“Oh, Holly…”

The towel about her neck was wet. A white towel…with red stripes.

“To help him breathe,” she repeated. One of her hands opened behind her back…a large knife with a heavy wooden handle clattered to the floor. “I gave my brother gills…just like mine!”

The towel fell away from her neck.

THE END
(A Budget Studios Production)

Editor’s Note:

As previously mentioned, this story was scheduled to appear in an issue of Monster Project magazine. Unfortunately, a proposed financial arrangement fell through between the publisher and filmmaker Bud “Budget” Preston and, in the fallout, the magazine ceased publication. Details are scarce, but most blame the filmmaker’s notoriously tight wallet for the dissolved partnership—though Preston’s quick temper may have also been a factor.

The announced issues featuring prose retellings of Preston’s most (in)famous films never saw the light, though test printings of those issues have long been rumored to exist. The main supporting evidence was a blurry photograph of Preston in his crowded office with magazines spread across his desk. However, the resolution of the photo, and the haphazard arrangement of the covers, made it impossible to identify any unpublished issues of the magazine.

Still, the rumors would persist. Fans of Preston’s quirky filmography—I count myself in that number—would jump at each teasing mention of discovered magazines, with the same energy special effects fans would jump at news of missing 1933 footage from King Kong’s spider pit sequence.

Most promising was a claim from a lesser horror author (I won’t stoop to mention this fraud by name) that he was the one who transformed the film scripts into Monster Project articles. When pressed, however, this author could never produce the stories. Excuses varied: “I’m planning to publish them in my next collection” — “I lost them in an office fire” — “I have them, but won’t release them because I never got paid for the job.” Eventually he gave a two-word interview answer that ended further inquiry: “I lied.”

Much hope lay with Bud Preston’s estate, but his reclusive widow had been uncooperative with fans and film researchers alike. I’d sent her an advance copy of my own fictionalized tribute to Preston’s legacy,Life in a Haunted House, but that gesture failed to gain her trust.

In online interviews here and there, I dropped mention of my forthcoming book on Bud Preston, which brought a few unsolicited and unlikely claims to my Inbox. One of the emails contained an attachment that purported to be a scanned cover of issue 101.

Everyone knows you’re not supposed to open attachments from an unknown source, but I couldn’t resist clicking on it.

The cover looked real.

My source—a book collector and film buff who wishes to remain anonymous—told me he had more items to show me, if I was interested.

If I was interested? After viewing another scanned piece of evidence, I arranged the earliest possible meeting.

I brought my checkbook with me.

The actual magazines remain with the collector, but I purchased scanned pages of each. Instead of working with Preston’s estate, I was able to secure publication rights from the owners of Monster Project’s back catalog—thanks to some ambiguous language in the initial signed agreement between Preston and the magazine.

I’d rather not specify how much I spent. Let’s just say that, in current U.S. dollars, Bud “Budget” Preston could have funded at least four new movies with the amount.

The actual authorship of each of the stories remains a mystery, though I have a few theories. If any readers have their own ideas, I’d love to hear them. Seek me out at www.normanprentiss.com.

#

If you enjoyed this rediscovered “novelization” of Bud Preston’s forgotten film, The Dungeon of Count Verlock, there are more stories to come. In addition to further novelizations of Preston’s films, including The Lake Monster and The Space Visitor, I have a forthcoming full-length novel that fictionalizes elements of Preston’s life and filmography: Life in a Haunted HouseLife in a Haunted House is currently in previews at the Kindle Scout site.

Please consider visiting to peruse the 5,000 word excerpt.  If you like it and nominate it, you will get a free copy if Kindle Press chooses to publish the eBook!

#

Life in a Haunted House:

Brendan has always been fascinated by the low-budget horror films of Bud Preston. Imagine his surprise when he moves to a new town and discovers a high school classmate is the daughter of his favorite director. Melissa Preston’s home contains exciting secrets about such strange films as The Stone Stairway and The Dungeon of Count Verlock. But Brendan’s film-fan obsessions threaten to undermine his new friendship…before he can truly understand what it means to spend Life in a Haunted House.

Norman Prentiss is the author of Odd Adventures with Your Other Father (A Kindle Scout Selection), and he won a 2010 Bram Stoker Award for his first book, Invisible Fences. He also won a 2009 Stoker for his short story, “In the Porches of My Ears,” published in Postscripts 18. Other publications include The Book of Baby Names, The Fleshless Man,Four Legs in the Morning, The Halloween Children (written with Brian James Freeman), and The Narrator (written with Michael McBride), with story appearances in Black Static, Dark Screams, Blood Lite 3, Best Horror of the Year, The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, and in four editions of the Shivers anthology series. His poetry has appeared in Writer Online, Southern Poetry Review, Baltimore’s City Paper, and A Sea of Alone: Poems for Alfred Hitchcock

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