(Last fall we published a post by NCS contributor Grant Skelton about a then-forthcoming anthology of weird fiction, horror, and speculative fiction named The Book of Blasphemous Words, in which one of Grant’s own stories had been accepted for publication. The publication date of the book is now fast approaching, and we agreed to let Grant provide a reminder, along with some other benefits — including scatterings of metal music.)
Hello readers! I’ve been a contributor here at our beloved metal blog for a little over 2 years. In that time, I’ve done my best to bring you metal-related content that’s relevant, engaging, and thought-provoking. And since you’ve put up with my madness for that time, I’ve got a little treat for you. A way to say thanks for reading all the nonsense in my reviews and Seen & Heard contributions.
In addition to writing for NCS, I am also a fiction writer. I predominantly write horror, which yields itself to heavy metal quite well. On January 31, my short story “Outer Darkness” will be published in an anthology called The Book Of Blasphemous Words. The publisher, A Murder Of Storytellers, is based in Tulsa, OK.
The publisher has agreed to let us offer a discount for the anthology specifically for NCS readers! Below this post, you’ll find an excerpt from my story, which is about an exorcist with a reality television show. If you like what you read, follow the preorder link.
Enter promo code “nocleansinging” at checkout for a 25% discount on the anthology.
“Outer Darkness” is heavily influenced by doom metal, since that’s mostly what I was listening to around the time I wrote it. So as you read, feel free to partake in some classics, as well as some recent finds.
Thank you, NCS readers. I appreciate those who read and comment on my posts. And the lurkers too. I know you’re there, because I used to be one.
Enjoy this excerpt of my short story, “Outer Darkness.” If you enjoy it, you can read the whole thing in The Book Of Blasphemous Words. Preorder here:
Outer Darkness (Excerpt)
By Grant Skelton
Reverend Malcolm Colt stood outside with his Bible in one hand and a cigarette in the other. He sucked down the smoke like it was nectar. He had broad shoulders that rose and fell as he relished his cigarette. He looked at the sky, trying to see constellations through the darkness. The reverend remembered his father pointing out the constellations to him when he was a boy. He never could get it quite right. But that hadn’t stopped his old man from trying. No matter how hard he squinted, he never could find the stars. He just couldn’t seem to see through the blackness. It was too thick, too heavy. Almost like it was trying to make itself darker, just so he couldn’t see through it.
His age certainly wasn’t doing his vision any favors. While he wasn’t exactly a senior citizen, he certainly wasn’t in any condition to be running a marathon. He was a tall man with a thick neck and hard arms. He might even have been imposing if not for his eyes. He had the look of a man that could sleep for a week and still be tired. He wore his white hair high and tight and he made sure to have it cut often.
Reverend Colt looked down and scowled at the ashes on his shoulder. A murmured curse escaped from between his lips and the cigarette. He stuffed the Bible inside his jacket. He brushed the ashes off of his shoulder. A pale grey streak of soot remained. He whacked at it with his hand. Small clouds of soot fluffed off in the soft winter breeze.
Benefits of always wearing black, thought the reverend. Nobody sees the stains.
He puffed away at the cigarette until it was short enough to burn his lips. He flicked the butt into the snow and stamped it out. He put another cigarette in his mouth. He flicked open his Zippo lighter. Black stainless steel with a shiny silver cross in the middle. It had been a gift. On the back was an inscription. It read, Praise God for Reverend Malcolm Colt. Thank you. Your biggest fan, Jim Nash. The reverend lit the cigarette, thumbed the lighter closed, and slid it into his jacket pocket.
He leaned against the wall behind him, propping his left foot against it.
He thought about Jim Nash every time he used the lighter. He remembered the little boy, Nash’s son. The wounds on his hands and feet. The bleeding that wouldn’t stop. He remembered how the water stung the boy’s skin like acid. He remembered the pentagram scar in the boy’s forehead. And he remembered that the boy had done that with his own fingers. The scar was still there even after the whole thing was over. Reverend Colt still saw that scar every night before he fell asleep. And those eyes. Those young, innocent eyes that became something else. Even though Colt had cured the boy, he couldn’t forget his eyes.
Reverend Colt inhaled his cigarette like it was the last one he would ever smoke.
“Reverend Colt,” said someone.
It was the director’s assistant. He was a polite, but busy man with large glasses.
“Yeah?” said the reverend.
“Five minutes to shoot,” said the assistant.
“Got it,” said the reverend without taking the cigarette out of his mouth.
“You did go over the material?” asked the assistant.
Reverend Colt patted the breast pocket of his jacket.
“Got it right here,” he said.
“Fantastic, sir. Thank you,” replied the assistant.
“You betcha,” said the reverend.
The assistant went back inside.
Reverend Colt opened his jacket. He gripped the index cards between his thumb and forefingers. He looked at the cards and shook his head. He sighed and crumbled them up. He took the Zippo from his pocket. He flipped it open, lit it and held the index cards into the flame. He watched them burn for a moment and then let them go into the wind.
Just then Billy, a first year intern who was fresh out of college, came outside.
“Hi Reverend Colt,” said Billy.
The reverend almost bit his cigarette in half. He blinked hard.
“Hey there, Billy,” he said, forcing a smile.
The reverend raised his eyebrows. He inhaled, the cherry on his cigarette glowing a bright orange. He blew out a thick cloud of smoke.
“Oh. I see,” said Billy. “Isn’t that bad for ya?”
“Living’s bad for you, son,” remarked Reverend Colt.
“Yeah. Guess so…um…so I read your book again last week.”
“Learn anything new?” asked the reverend from the corner of his mouth.
“Well I mean yeah,” said Billy. “All the time. Explorations in Exorcism by Reverend Malcolm Colt is the preeminent volume on the topic in the 21st century. It’s a modern day classic. Don’t you know?”
“That a fact?” the reverend spat.
“Well yeah, I mean…it’s been on the New York Times bestseller list for like 8 months or somethin’. I mean come on…you keep up on the news don’t ya?”
“Only good news is no news, Billy.”
“Sir…I mean…well…that is to say that…you’re the only person doing stuff like this right now. Before you came along most people didn’t even believe in it…I mean I sure didn’t. You made a believer out of me, Reverend Colt,” said Billy, smiling ear to ear.
“How do you feel?” asked Reverend Colt.
“Um…fine sir,” said Billy.
“No, son. How do you feel now that you’re a believer?”
“Oh…um…great! Yeah. Real real good. I’m um…in church now and so is…are…my parents. I met this girl and everything so…it’s…it’s really good sir. I just…wanna say what an honor it is to be working with you sir. I’ve seen every episode of the show since you started. And I think what you’re doing is just…really really great. Reverend Colt. Sir.”
“Thanks,” said Reverend Colt. “Cigarette?”
“Um, no sir. Thank you sir,” said Billy.
The director’s assistant poked his head out.
“One minute to shoot Mr. Colt,” he said. “Might be good to go ahead and come in. We need to get you set up,”
“Yep. Just finishing up. Weren’t we Billy?”
“Oh…yes sir. Reverend Colt, sir.”
Billy and the assistant went inside. Reverend Colt flicked his cigarette into the snow. He took one last look into the sky. He still couldn’t see the stars through the blackness.
“Showtime,” he muttered, and went inside.
Reverend Colt stood in front of the camera crew. He wrapped a tiny wire microphone around his right ear and adjusted it for comfort.
“Ok everybody,” said the director’s assistant. “This is the last shoot of the regular season. Let’s make it count. We can only do so much editing. Places, everyone. Places.”
“This thing on?” said Reverend Colt into the microphone.
“Loud and clear, sir,” replied one of the crew.
Reverend Colt’s mouth salivated. His tongue screamed for more nicotine. His fingers fidgeted. He hadn’t had a drink in years. But for some reason, he ached for one right now.
“Everybody ready? Ok great,” said the assistant. “Reverend Colt, on you in 5…4…3…2…:”
The assistant silently pointed at Reverend Colt.
“Good evening,” said the reverend into the camera. “Welcome to Outer Darkness. I’m your host, Reverend Malcolm Colt. In this episode, I’ll be helping Walter and Heather Morton. Six months ago, Heather was stricken with a debilitating illness. She began to have fevers, dizzy spells, unexplained wounds, uncontrollable bleeding, and incapacitating headaches. Her symptoms further developed into elaborate visions. She began seeing things that would send her into a manic frenzy. She spoke in languages she has never learned. She shattered all the mirrors in the house and began carving upside down crosses into her skin. As all of you know, the ‘experts’ all attribute this to some form of mental illness. But if you’re watching my show, you know otherwise. Tonight, on our season finale, you will join me as we send another of the denizens of Hell back into the abyss…back into outer darkness!”
“Cut,” said the assistant. “Great job, Reverend. If anything’s missing we’ll fix it in editing.”
“Yep. I’m sure you will,” said Reverend Colt under his breath.
Walter Morton sat on a sofa in his living room. He leaned forward, his elbows propped on his knees. He wrung his hands over and over until they turned red.
“Well,” said Walter into the camera. “It started about half a year ago. Me n’ Heather just come back from Destin. We went down there to get away for a while. Well when we come back she was feelin’ just…well awful. Said her head hurt real bad, she couldn’t keep nothin’ down. Any time she’d eat, she’d throw it right back up. I told her it was just a bug. Told her it would pass. I was wrong.”
A single tear rolled down Walter Morton’s cheek.
Reverend Colt looked over at the assistant.
“This is great,” mouthed the assistant with a thumb up.
Reverend Colt looked at the ground.
“After all the doctors and shrinks, I just didn’t know what else to do,” continued Walter. “I’m a God-fearin’ man. I believe in my own two eyes and I’ve never seen nothin’ like this. The things she says about me. About our family. About the Lord. Just…terrible. I didn’t know where else to turn, so I found y’all’s website. Now here we are.”
“Cut,” said the director’s assistant. “Now Reverend, let’s get a little bit of you and Mr. Morton talking together.”
Reverend Colt sat next to Walter on the couch.
“And we’re on in 5…4…3…” said the assistant. He pointed.
“Can you help me, sir?” asked Walter. “There’s nobody else that can. And they say you’re the best. Nobody can do what you can.”
Reverend Colt smiled. He shook Walter’s hand. With the other hand, he patted the Walter’s shoulder.
“I can sir,” said Reverend Colt. “I can rid your life of this foul presence so that your wife can be healed.”
“Praise God,” cried Walter. “Thank you, sir. Thank you.”
Reverend Colt went up the stairs with a single cameraman. The director’s assistant followed.
“Let’s just get something quick,” said the assistant. “You update us on where we are and what’s going on. When you’re ready, we’ll follow you into the bedroom.”
“Got it,” said the reverend.
The assistant counted down and pointed.
“Here we are, believers,” said Reverend Colt. “Here we are in front of the bedroom door. Inside lies Mr. Morton’s tormented wife, Heather. She has been restrained for her safety and ours. Pray for us as we go to do battle with the evil inside of her.”
The director’s assistant gestured with a hand, telling the reverend to keep going.
Reverend Colt turned the knob. The door groaned as it opened.
A loud hoarse whimper greeted them from inside the bedroom.
The assistant and the cameraman bristled at the sound. It didn’t faze Reverend Colt.
“I come in the name of the Most High,” said Reverend Colt. “I speak to the entity inside of Heather Morton.”
“I am Heather Morton,” said the entity. Its voice sounded like a dying cat.
“No,” said Reverend Colt. “No you are not. You are a liar and deceiver. You are not welcome here.”
“It is you, Reverend Malcolm Colt, who are the liar and deceiver,” said the entity.
The camera crew and the assistant crowded behind the reverend.
Heather Morton lay on her back in the bed. Her arms were chained to the headboard and her feet to the posts at the foot of the bed.
Her skin was a pale yellow. It looked thin, like paper. Purple veins flowed like spider webs across her body. Each of her forearms had inverted crosses scratched into them. Her fingernails and toenails had all broken off. What was left of her hair was brittle and discolored. She was missing most of her teeth and the ones that remained were splotched with green and black. Her breath smelled like sulfur and rancid meat. Her eyes were sunken in, her face emaciated from malnutrition. The whites of her eyes were a mess of ruptured blood vessels. Her pupils were not visible.
“Your soul is ours, Reverend Colt,” remarked the entity. “It belongs to us.”
“I am saved by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ!” said Colt. “It is he that commands you.”
Heather Morton’s body lurched forward. She vomited up a stream of a black viscous fluid into Reverend Colt’s face. It was full of writhing maggots.
Colt ripped off his jacket. He wiped his face with it and threw it on the floor.
“By the power of God Almighty, I command you…” Colt began.
A chair levitated off the ground. It flew hard at Reverend Colt. It hit him in the face and knocked him backward. A small droplet of blood ran down the side of his head.
“Your commands are feeble,” taunted the entity.
The entity twitched its – or rather Heather Morton’s – right hand. The bones of the fingers all snapped. The hand sagged like a wet noodle. The entity slid the hand out of the restraints.
“I’ll come over there,” said the entity. “And throw you right into Hell!”
It wiggled the fingers of its left hand. They broke, allowing the entity to free the hand. It reached its pulpy hands toward the reverend.
“Your God is weak!” it screamed.
“Be silent!” Reverend Colt screamed back, extending his hand.
The entity fell backward, sprawling out on the bed.
“I speak as one who has authority from Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior,” declared Reverend Colt. “It is He that commands you. God commands you. Depart. At once!”
The entity moaned.
The bed rattled. The entity groaned and held its hands over its ears. The bed elevated. It floated in midair for a moment before clattering back down onto the floor.
Colt approached the bed and laid his palm across the entity’s forehead.
“The Lord of Hosts commands you to leave. He commands you to depart.”
The entity reared its head and bit into Reverend Colt’s hand.
Colt cried out, punching the entity with his other hand. It groaned and loosened its jaw.
“In the name of God, I order you, spirit,” said Reverend Colt. “Tell me your name.”
“Heather Morton,” said the entity.
“No!” yelled Reverend Colt. “Your real name! I order you to tell me!”
“Dagon,” it shrieked.
“Dagon,” said Reverend Colt. “By the power granted me by God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. I command you. Leave this vessel of the Lord and return to your master. I cast you from this place. I cast you into outer darkness!”
“Noooooooo!” moaned the entity.
The entity’s screams boomed. A window shattered on the far side of the bedroom. The entity bayed like a hound, its protests and curses following it in echoes out the window.
Color slowly returned to Heather Morton’s body. Her wounds healed, and her appearance changed. Gone were the rotten teeth and brittle hair. Even her hands looked as though no harm had been done to them. She was asleep.
Reverend Colt sighed. The putrid vomit disappeared from his face. Although when he left the room, he had to shake a few maggots from his jacket.