The world’s fate lies with a comatose young girl; an android wants to remember a human she once knew under Martian skies; men at sea learn that the ocean is a realm far different from land, where an unforgiving god rules; a school security guard discovers extreme English class; and a man understands what the behemoth beneath the sea commands of him.
The Sea Was a Fair Master is a collection of 23 stories, riding the currents of fantasy, science fiction, crime, and horror. There are tales of murder, death, loss, revenge, greed, and hate. There are also tales of hope, survival, and love.
For the sea was a fair master.
“Sea Ate Nine” Excerpt
(From The Sea Was a Fair Master collection)
By Calvin Demmer
For months, the nightmares of battling the sea would find him in the small hours. Fighting wave after wave, he struggled to keep afloat as the undertow pulled him away from land. In the deep ocean, he’d surrender and beneath the water, he went.
His lungs would flood.
He wouldn’t die.
Instead, he’d drift in currents as tranquil as clouds. A large shape would move in the distance. He could never see it clearly, but on occasion he heard the voice.
It didn’t really speak. It was more of a call and was unlike anything Grover Jenkins had heard. It boomed, and not even the ocean currents could stifle its magnificent force, which would send Grover reeling backward. It was so powerful that his vision distorted and his brain rattled so hard within his skull that he feared internal hemorrhaging. He was thankful that this behemoth only bellowed three words every time, for another word more and Grover feared either his head would explode or the bones in his body would shatter.
Grover didn’t understand what it wanted from him from by way of the three random words, until one night at work they revealed themselves…
(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)
When I was reading the various stories in this collection, two words kept popping into my head regarding many characters — CREEPY and PSYCHO!
Calvin Demmer let the craziness and horrific tales unfold in various places by a few unlikely whackjobs. Man, woman, child….. Calvin didn’t limit one specific gender or age bracket to the title of crazed. Calvin’s evildoers were also not always of this world.
He tapped into our fears. He tapped into the unknown. He showed us evil lurks all around us and sometimes right before our very eyes.
A few of my top scoring short tales:
1.) “The Revenge of the Myth”: You’ll never look at Santa’s little helpers the same way again.
2.) “Voodoo Child”: Many people believe in the power of voodoo dolls, so I think this short tale will be a favorite of many readers.
3.) “Letting the Dead Grow”: Move over Jason and Mike Myers, Rowan has hit the Halloween spook scene and he creeped me out more than you two.. combined.
4.) “Hangman”: I’m a parent and fear of violence at school is always on my mind. However, with Calvin centering the disturbing tale around a childhood game, I found myself drawn in. When your life is on the line, you’ll play harder. Then again, when you are dealing with people with mental issues, sometimes playing your best isn’t good enough.
Calvin’s imagination took me to places where I didn’t want to go, kind of wished I didn’t go, but also impressed me on how well he constructed these dark and horrific tales. Good job on freaking me the hell out and for ruining Christmas for me.
Calvin Demmer is a dark fiction author. His debut collection, The Sea Was a Fair Master, was released in June 2018. When not writing, he is intrigued by that which goes bump in the night and the sciences of our universe. You can find him online at www.calvindemmer.com or follow him on Twitter @CalvinDemmer.
South African Horrorfest Bloody Parchment short story competition 2017: Finalist
Bards and Sages Reader’s Choice Awards: Author of the Year 2017
DarkFuse Tiny Terrors (November 2016 winner) “Ana Loves Red”
Welcome to the Mechanisms of Despair. In this chilling collection of horror shorts, you will find tales of the macabre, stories of suicidal tendencies, and moments of acute psychological torment.
“The Way Out”
‘The Way In”
“Into the Fire”
“A Friend in Need”
“Dog of the Day” by Holly Buller
This collection will raise money for two very good causes- the publisher is donating its proceeds to The Alzheimer’s Foundation in the USA, and Gary Buller will be donating his to Sarcoma UK- A charity that helps people suffering with bone and soft tissue cancer- people like his mum.
(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)
Horror movies draw audiences because people love to be scared. People read thriller novels for the same exact reason. When you sit down to read the haunting short stories in Mechanisms of Despair, you definitely will be creeped the eff out by more than one story. For me, I am so glad I read the hair-raising tales in the light of day.
Ok, I might spook easier than most people but a couple weirded me out big time. Take for example “The Way Out” and “The Way In”… Those two spine-chilling stories have me rethinking staying at any hotel this summer that I haven’t researched thoroughly first. Seriously, if there’s one hint of anything remotely supernatural happening there (past or present), any deaths, murders, suicides, then it’s on the NO WAY IN HELL I’M STAYING THERE list. Shoot, I don’t want to spend a minute in a HOTEL FROM HELL. Would you? Ok, maybe some supernatural thrill seekers would but I am not that adventurous.
My other favorite short tale was “Into the Fire” because it pointed out monsters can be made of flesh and bone. Those are the scariest ones of all. With 7 creepy tales by Gary and one bonus shorty by Holly, I will say folks will find multiple stories that’ll leave a lasting impression on them. For me, I found enjoyment with half and that ain’t too shabby in my mind.
Word of warning, as of April 24th, Amazon listed this as a children’s book but I don’t agree with that sentiment. When I think children’s book, I envision anything deemed appropriate for the under ten crowd and these stories are definitely not suited for my youngster. Teenager, yes. Younger child, no.
Gary Buller is an author from Manchester England where he lives with his long suffering partner Lisa, and his daughter Holly. He is a huge fan of all things macabre having grown up reading King and Koontz and loves a tale with a twist.
Shren has been locked in his own mansion’s cellar for seven years before one day, he finds the door unlocked, and his house—once filled with parties that his captors, his traitorous servants, threw—silent and empty.
Upon closer inspection, Shren finds that his home has only one difference from the days before his imprisonment—a painting gracing one of the walls, a painting of a man with eyes bleeding pitch black. A magicworker has been in his home.
Shren leaves, seeking to escape the wrath of the magicworker, should they return. It is then that he discovers their origin, that they are far more insidious and dangerous than he’d ever imagined, and he is inexorably drawn into a journey to stop the magicworkers from taking and corrupting his people as they did in the land they were created.
The walls showed a thousand writings and pictures as they slithered across the dark wood, telling the same story–a tale of darkness in a world long passed, wars and battles, everything Shren had ever read about in the history books. He watched with fascination, as he did every day; watching the stories be told in the silence of ink upon a wall.
Then the picture changed. It came to life. Black wings unfurled, arching feathers brushing the roof above, throwing shadows across the small square room as the lantern in the centre of the roof rocked and swayed in the breeze. The wings thrust out from the walls, grey and black etchings now hovering in mid-air. The wings beat slowly.
Shren covered his nose as the damp air stirred, chill gusts flinging fragments of mould into his face. He shivered and groaned; the musty scent of rotting wood and aged wine was irritating.
The wings slowly curled in on themselves, folding, before fading completely. A golden-cream furred shape crouched upright where they had been in the dark corner of the cellar.
“We need to leave.” The cat-like creature fell onto four legs and padded over to where Shren crouched, leaning against a barrel. It nosed the man’s huddled figure, keen eyes flickering as it waited for a response.
Shren unwrapped his arms from his legs and heaved himself upright, staring down at the linsang. He did not deign to respond, simply turning his back to it, staring at the dank walls of his prison. Every day the linsang spoke to him and every day it said the same thing. He did not want to leave.
Water dripped from the ceiling. Icy droplets slid down his neck and Shren lifted the hood of his cloak with a sigh.
Still the linsang stood, tail twitching as it watched its master.
“How am I to leave?” He demanded as he finally whirled round to face his familiar, “When I’m in a locked prison?”
“You know as well as I do,” the linsang arched its back in a stretch as it spoke, words seeming to materialise as sounds in the air though its mouth never opened. “You can leave whenever you wish.”
“Why now?” Shren leant his head back against the cold bricks and stared up at the ceiling.
“Time for reality, my friend,” the linsang said simply.
Shren growled and slid back into a crouch on the floor. His mouth twisted bitterly. “Reality,” he hissed, “Can go to hell.”
In answer, the linsang turned to the walls surrounding them, and Shren wearily followed the familiar’s gaze. The once white stone, now moulded green and grey, still held strong, held back the onslaught of the elements far above. And as had ever been for seven years, still the stories scrolled, black etchings of ink fluidly shifting over the walls day and night. Shren had tried to scrub them off, make them stop as the stories they told he did not wish to hear. Did not wish to believe, he admitted silently.
The place had driven him mad. Perhaps it was indeed time to leave.
A flicker at the edge of his vision made Shren to pause. He glanced over at the wall beside him, and the pictures it told caused him to sink to the floor once more.
No. Shren tried to look away but every wall was covered in the lies. Men laughing and drinking, showing his fine arts; the paintings of colour he had collected himself. Telling stories they had overheard him say, as if they were their own.
The words were whispered, but Shren clenched his fists, nails digging into palms crusted with the dried mud of years. Fear shone from his eyes as he sought to not watch the visions. Truth, the linsang had told him. The walls always showed truth.
But it was lies. “Stop it!” Shren shrieked, eyes wide. Perhaps indeed he had gone mad.
With those words the walls stopped. “I am sorry,” the linsang rubbed against his legs, “But you know as well as I do…Now is the time.”
He looked once more at the scrawling, the pictures that had been there his every waking moment. They had changed once more; this time it showed the guards of his prison, his own servants, their faces warped. Eyes scratched out, bleeding blackness. Skin grey; dead.
Shren recognised this picture. Never had he seen it before on these walls, but a time many years ago. An ancient painting he had seen once and sought for many years after; different subjects, yet the eyes were the same. Staring black holes. He’d never been able to see the strange mural again, yet here it was, on the very walls of his cellar, and that was truth.
His heart pounded in his ears; he knew what this meant. The linsang was right. He needed to get out now. Without any further argument, Shren drew himself up and laid his hand on the door latch.
He was sure it was locked. It had been locked for years, was that not why he was imprisoned here, why he had never left? Yet when Shren pushed down on the door handle, it swung open, moisture-swollen wood scraping against the stone doorway was the only resistance he met.
Had it ever been this way? Shren shook himself; of course not. The servants had to open and close this door to deliver the food that appeared every morning before he awoke. Perhaps one time they had forgotten to lock it. This one time.
He peered nervously out the door. Nothing happened. No traps sprung, no servants leaping from darkened alcoves.
So Shren ventured out into his mansion once more, a place he had not seen for close to seven years. He ignored his surroundings until he had exited the stairwell from the basement and was at ground level, concentrating only on one step at time.
Then he was inside the house. Here the plain stone walls, moulded and damp below, changed to plastered and painted surfaces, smoothed and clean beneath his fingertips.
So little had changed. His servants, traitors one and all, and yet they had still faithfully taken care of his home in his absence. They had spent his hoarded riches on the baser things, enjoying life as one big party, only to fall prey to one man–a magicworker of kroma iridis. That was the tale the inked walls had told him. Never had the pictures changed from days of banquets and debauchery until that moment, when he had seen the man with the bloodstained, black eyes.
My name is Jenna Whittaker and I am an Australian author who has been writing fantasy, science fiction, and horror novels for as long as I can remember! I love writing, my artwork, and caring for animals.