Now Taking Submissions for the October 7 Issue!

The Chamber Magazine: Contemporary Dark Fiction and Poetry is now taking submissions for the October 7 issue.

The Chamber is now taking submissions for the October 7 issue. Submissions for the September issue are closed. Halloween-related material is welcome but not required to submit. Please have your submission in before October 1. Be sure to include the genre and/or subgenre of your work in your cover letter along with the word count and a bio of approximately fifty words or less.

Check out the latest in our Bookshop and Gift Shop while you are here.

New Page: Support

Support The Chamber Magazine

Today, I added a Support Page to The Chamber. Check it out. Below is the text from it.

You can support The Chamber in several ways.

Obviously, the first form of support that comes to anyone’s mind is financial support. You can do this through buying something from The Chamber’s gift shop or by making a financial donation through Stripe (in homepage sidebar) or through Buy Me a Book. The funds will be used to improve and upgrade The Chamber in many ways including Search Engine Optimization, web design, software for graphics and communication, advertising (possibly at a later date), and doubtlessly many others that are not occurring to my coffee-starved mind (it’s 8:43 a.m. as I write this).

However there are also other ways as well.

Share a story or poem. The most basic (and arguably the best and least expensive) form of publicity is by word of mouth. If you see a story or poem or article that you like, share it on social media. This can be as quick and easy as hitting a link below the story/poem. You can also mention The Chamber in any comments you make on other websites or social media. If you buy a t-shirt or other bit of merchandise from the gift shop, wear it in public at every opportunity. You are limited only by your imagination and the odds are you are creative are good as you are reading this magazine at the moment.

Another way to support The Chamber is to contribute something to be published. Of course, I will have to exercise editorial discretion over what is to be published, but the better your work is, the better the chance of it being published (don’t forget to check the guidelines for updates before you submit). The wider the variety of contributions, the more exposure the magazine receives. Don’t forget that The Chamber doesn’t publish only stories and poems, but reviews, interviews, articles, essays, and anything else that might be of interest to a reader of dark matter. They all have their own readership.

Don’t forget that The Chamber also has a nascent YouTube channel (. I wouldn’t mind publishing short videos there, which would also appear in the magazine as does any story or poem. So, you would get exposure not only on YouTube, but also in the online magazine.

I don’t know how I would work podcasts, but I am open to proposals.

Finally, another way you can contribute is by submitting ideas for the website or proposals for things to be published. I don’t have any way of compensating anyone for ideas or proposals, except for some type of exposure–maybe. If in doubt, submit.

At this time, The Chamber has no volunteer program, but that may be possible in the distant future.

Check this page occasionally as I will sporadically post updates and new ideas as the occur to me.

Thank you for your time.

New Tagline for The Chamber “the strange and dark and beautiful”

Just a quick note to let everyone know that The Chamber’s tagline (“Contemporary Dark Fiction and Poetry”) is being supplanted by a new one: “the strange and dark and beautiful”. You may see these two switching out in a lot of places over time. For now, I am using it just on The Chamber’s homepage.

I got the phrase from one of The Chamber’s contributors, Patrick Crossen, whose story, “His Assistant”, was published by The Chamber on September 2 (check out the story if you have a few minutes). In his cover letter for the story, Patrick stated:

Please find enclosed my short story, “His Assistant ”. It’s a reworking of a common trope with a fresh angle that I had a lot of fun writing. Due do your magazine’s tendency to lean toward the strange and dark and beautiful, I think it would be a good fit for your magazine.

Received by Phil Slattery, Fiction by Patrick Crossen “His Assistant”, 20 June 2022.

That phrase resonated with me and has stuck in my mind since then. It struck me as a simple, concise, and powerful way of stating what I had not realized The Chamber was truly about until I read it. So, this evening, I sent Patrick an email asking permission to use it, which he graciously granted.

Over time, I will be using this and probably some variations here and there. You will see them pop up occasionally on this website, in The Chamber’s social media, and on merchandise as I test out its suitability in various places.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Have a wonderful rest of your day.

Drop by The Chamber’s Bookstore if you have the chance.

New Page: Support

Support The Chamber Magazine

Today, I added a Support Page to The Chamber. Check it out. Below is the text from it.

You can support The Chamber in several ways.

Obviously, the first form of support that comes to anyone’s mind is financial support. You can do this through buying something from The Chamber’s gift shop or by making a financial donation through Stripe (in homepage sidebar) or through Buy Me a Book. The funds will be used to improve and upgrade The Chamber in many ways including Search Engine Optimization, web design, software for graphics and communication, advertising (possibly at a later date), and doubtlessly many others that are not occurring to my coffee-starved mind (it’s 8:43 a.m. as I write this).

However there are also other ways as well.

Share a story or poem. The most basic (and arguably the best and least expensive) form of publicity is by word of mouth. If you see a story or poem or article that you like, share it on social media. This can be as quick and easy as hitting a link below the story/poem. You can also mention The Chamber in any comments you make on other websites or social media. If you buy a t-shirt or other bit of merchandise from the gift shop, wear it in public at every opportunity. You are limited only by your imagination and the odds are you are creative are good as you are reading this magazine at the moment.

Another way to support The Chamber is to contribute something to be published. Of course, I will have to exercise editorial discretion over what is to be published, but the better your work is, the better the chance of it being published (don’t forget to check the guidelines for updates before you submit). The wider the variety of contributions, the more exposure the magazine receives. Don’t forget that The Chamber doesn’t publish only stories and poems, but reviews, interviews, articles, essays, and anything else that might be of interest to a reader of dark matter. They all have their own readership.

Don’t forget that The Chamber also has a nascent YouTube channel (. I wouldn’t mind publishing short videos there, which would also appear in the magazine as does any story or poem. So, you would get exposure not only on YouTube, but also in the online magazine.

I don’t know how I would work podcasts, but I am open to proposals.

Finally, another way you can contribute is by submitting ideas for the website or proposals for things to be published. I don’t have any way of compensating anyone for ideas or proposals, except for some type of exposure–maybe. If in doubt, submit.

At this time, The Chamber has no volunteer program, but that may be possible in the distant future.

Check this page occasionally as I will sporadically post updates and new ideas as the occur to me.

Thank you for your time.

New Video at The Chamber’s YouTube Channel

Phil Slattery, Publisher of The Chamber Magazine
Phil Slattery, Publisher of The Chamber Magazine

I am just dropping a quick note to let everyone know I have just now uploaded a new video to The Chamber’s YouTube Channel. It is an introduction to The Chamber, its origin and aims, and it provides a little background on me as well. I have perhaps made it more informative than enjoyable, but I think you will find it interesting in any case. Drop by when you can. New videos go up sporadically.

Three New Videos Added to The Chamber’s YouTube Channel

I have been refining my video-creation skills tonight and have produced three new ambience videos. One is almost 12 minutes in length; another is just over30 minutes in length; the last is about 40 minutes in length. Two, the shortest, are below. The third is still loading (a long process) as I write this.

Let me know if you spot any areas of concern. I know of a couple already in the first one (entitled “Dark City Ambience”. I hope you enjoy these at least as much as I did making them.

The Saturday Night Special: “Glamr” by Sabine Baring-Gould (1863)

Sabine Baring-Gould, Anglican Priest and Author, at age 30 in 1864
Sabine Baring-Gould, Anglican Priest and Author, at age 30 in 1864

The following story is found in the Gretla, an Icelandic Saga, composed in the thirteenth century, or that comes to us in the form then given to it; but it is a redaction of a Saga of much earlier date. Most of it is thoroughly historical, and its statements are corroborated by other Sagas. The following incident was introduced to account for the fact that the outlaw Gretter would run any risk rather than spend the long winter nights alone in the dark.

At the beginning of the eleventh century there stood, a little way up the Valley of Shadows in the north of Iceland, a small farm, occupied by a worthy bonder, named Thorhall, and his wife. The farmer was not exactly a chieftain, but he was well enough connected to be considered respectable; to back up his gentility he possessed numerous flocks of sheep and a goodly drove of oxen. Thorhall would have been a happy man but for one circumstance—his sheepwalks were haunted.

Not a herdsman would remain with him; he bribed, he threatened, entreated, all to no purpose; one shepherd after another left his service, and things came to such a pass that he determined on asking advice at the next annual council. Thorhall saddled his horses, adjusted his packs, provided himself with hobbles, cracked his long Icelandic whip, and cantered along the road, and in due time reached Thingvellir.

Skapti Thorodd’s son was lawgiver at that time, and as everyone considered him a man of the utmost prudence and able to give the best advice, our friend from the Vale of Shadows made straight for his booth.

“An awkward predicament, certainly—to have large droves of sheep and no one to look after them,” said Skapti, nibbling the nail of his thumb, and shaking his wise head—a head as stuffed with law as a ptarmigan’s crop is stuffed with blaeberries. “Now I’ll tell you what— as you have asked my advice, I will help you to a shepherd; a character in his way, a man of dull intellect, to be sure, but strong as a bull.”

“I do not care about his wits so long as he can look after sheep,” answered Thorhall.

“You may rely on his being able to do that,” said Skapti. “He is a stout, plucky fellow; a Swede from Sylgsdale, if you know where that is.”

Towards the break-up of the council—“Thing” they call it in Iceland—two greyish-white horses belonging to Thorhall slipped their hobbles and strayed; so the good man had to hunt after them himself which shows how short of servants he was. He crossed Sletha-asi, thence he bent his way to Armann’s-fell, and just by the Priest’s Wood he met a strange-looking man driving before him a horse laden with faggots. The fellow was tall and stalwart; his face involuntarily attracted Thorhall’s attention, for the eyes, of an ashen grey, were large and staring, the powerful jaw was furnished with very white protruding teeth, and around the low forehead hung bunches of coarse wolf-grey hair.

“Pray, what is your name, my man?” asked the farmer, pulling up. “Glámr, an please you,” replied the wood-cutter.

Thorhall stared; then, with a preliminary cough, he asked how Glámr liked faggot-picking.

“Not much,” was the answer; “I prefer shepherd life.”

“Will you come with me?” asked Thorhall; “Skapti has handed you over to me, and I want a shepherd this winter uncommonly.”

“If I serve you, it is on the understanding that I come or go as it pleases me. I tell you I am a bit truculent if things do not go just to my thinking.”

“I shall not object to this,” answered the bonder. “So I may count on your services?”

“Wait a moment! You have not told me whether there be any drawback.”

“I must acknowledge that there is one,” said Thorhall; “in fact, the sheepwalks have got a bad name for bogies.”

“Pshaw! I’m not the man to be scared at shadows,” laughed Glámr; “so here’s my hand to it; I’ll be with you at the beginning of the winter night.”

Well, after this they parted, and presently the farmer found his ponies. Having thanked Skapti for his advice and assistance, he got his horses together and trotted home.

Summer, and then autumn passed, but not a word about the new shepherd reached the Valley of Shadows. The winter storms began to bluster up the glen, driving the flying snow-flakes and massing the white drifts at every winding of the vale. Ice formed in the shallows of the river; and the streams, which in summer trickled down the ribbed scarps, were now transmuted into icicles.

One gusty night a violent blow at the door startled all in the farm. In another moment Glámr, tall as a troll, stood in the hall glowering out of his wild eyes, his grey hair matted with frost, his teeth rattling and snapping with cold, his face blood-red in the glare of the fire which smouldered in the centre of the hall. Thorhall jumped up and greeted him warmly, but the housewife was too frightened to be very cordial.

Weeks passed, and the new shepherd was daily on the moors with his flock; his loud and deep- toned voice was often borne down on the blast as he shouted to the sheep driving them into fold. His presence in the house always produced gloom, and if he spoke it sent a thrill through the women, who openly proclaimed their aversion for him.

There was a church near the byre, but Glámr never crossed the threshold; he hated psalmody; apparently he was an indifferent Christian. On the vigil of the Nativity Glámr rose early and shouted for meat.

“Meat!” exclaimed the housewife; “no man calling himself a Christian touches flesh to-day. To-morrow is the holy Christmas Day, and this is a fast.”

“All superstition!” roared Glámr. “As far as I can see, men are no better now than they were in the bonny heathen time. Bring me meat, and make no more ado about it.”

“You may be quite certain,” protested the good wife, “if Church rule be not kept, ill-luck will follow.”

Glámr ground his teeth and clenched his hands. “Meat! I will have meat, or—” In fear and trembling the poor woman obeyed.

The day was raw and windy; masses of grey vapour rolled up from the Arctic Ocean, and hung in piles about the mountain-tops. Now and then a scud of frozen fog, composed of minute particles of ice, swept along the glen, covering bar and beam with feathery hoar-frost. As the day declined, snow began to fall in large flakes like the down of the eider-duck. One moment there was a lull in the wind, and then the deep-toned shout of Glámr, high up the moor slopes, was heard distinctly by the congregation assembling for the first vespers of Christmas Day. Darkness came on, deep as that in the rayless abysses of the caverns under the lava, and still the snow fell thicker. The lights from the church windows sent a yellow haze far out into the night, and every flake burned golden as it swept within the ray. The bell in the lych-gate clanged for evensong, and the wind puffed the sound far up the glen; perhaps it reached the herdsman’s ear. Hark! Someone caught a distant sound or shriek, which it was he could not tell, for the wind muttered and mumbled about the church eaves, and then with a fierce whistle scudded over the graveyard fence. Glámr had not returned when the service was over. Thorhall suggested a search, but no man would accompany him; and no wonder! it was not a night for a dog to be out in; besides, the tracks were a foot deep in snow. The family sat up all night, waiting, listening, trembling; but no Glámr came home. Dawn broke at last, wan and blear in the south. The clouds hung down like great sheets, full of snow, almost to bursting.

A party was soon formed to search for the missing man. A sharp scramble brought them to high land, and the ridge between the two rivers which join in Vatnsdalr was thoroughly examined. Here and there were found the scattered sheep, shuddering under an icicled rock, or half buried in a snow-drift. No trace yet of the keeper. A dead ewe lay at the bottom of a crag; it had staggered over in the gloom, and had been dashed to pieces.

Presently the whole party were called together about a trampled spot in the heath, where evidently a death-struggle had taken place, for earth and stone were tossed about, and the snow was blotched with large splashes of blood. A gory track led up the mountain, and the farm-servants were following it, when a cry, almost of agony, from one of the lads, made them turn. In looking behind a rock, the boy had come upon the corpse of the shepherd; it was livid and swollen to the size of a bullock. It lay on its back with the arms extended. The snow had been scrabbled up by the puffed hands in the death-agony, and the staring glassy eyes gazed out of the ashen-grey, upturned face into the vaporous canopy overhead. From the purple lips lolled the tongue, which in the last throes had been bitten through by the white fangs, and a discoloured stream which had flowed from it was now an icicle.

With trouble the dead man was raised on a litter, and carried to a gill-edge, but beyond this he could not be borne; his weight waxed more and more, the bearers toiled beneath their burden, their foreheads became beaded with sweat; though strong men they were crushed to the ground. Consequently, the corpse was left at the ravine-bead, and the men returned to the farm. Next day their efforts to lift Glámr’s bloated carcass, and remove it to consecrated ground, were unavailing. On the third day a priest accompanied them, but the body was nowhere to be found. Another expedition without the priest was made, and on this occasion the corpse was discovered; so a cairn was raised over the spot.

Two nights after this one of the thralls who had gone after the cows burst into the hall with a face blank and scared; he staggered to a seat and fainted. On recovering his senses, in a broken voice he assured all who crowded about him that he had seen Glámr walking past him as he left the door of the stable, On the following evening a houseboy was found in a fit under the farmyard wall, and he remained an idiot to his dying day. Some of the women next saw a face which, though blown out and discoloured, they recognised as that of Glámr, looking in upon them through a window of the dairy. In the twilight, Thorhall himself met the dead man, who stood and glowered at him, but made no attempt to injure his master. The haunting did not end there. Nightly a heavy tread was heard around the house, and a hand feeling along the walls, sometimes thrust in at the windows, at others clutching the woodwork, and breaking it to splinters. However, when the spring came round the disturbances lessened, and as the sun obtained full power, ceased altogether.

That summer a vessel from Norway dropped anchor in the nearest bay. Thorhall visited it, and found on board a man named Thorgaut, who was in search of work.

“What do you say to being my shepherd?” asked the bonder.

“I should very much like the office,” answered Thorgaut. “I am as strong as two ordinary men, and a handy fellow to boot.”

“I will not engage you without forewarning you of the terrible things you may have to encounter during the winter night.”

“Pray, what may they be?”

“Ghosts and hobgoblins,” answered the farmer; “a fine dance they lead me, I can promise you.”

“I fear them not,” answered Thorgaut; “I shall be with you at cattle-slaughtering time.” At the appointed season the man came, and soon established himself as a favourite in the house; he romped with the children, chucked the maidens under the chin, helped his fellow-servants, gratified the housewife by admiring her curd, and was just as much liked as his predecessor had been detested. He was a devil-may-care fellow, two, and made no bones of his contempt for the ghost, expressing hopes of meeting him face to face, which made his master look grave, and his mistress shudderingly cross herself. As the winter came on, strange sights and sounds began to alarm the folk, but these never frightened Thorgaut; he slept too soundly at night to hear the tread of feet about the door, and was too short-sighted to catch glimpses of a grizzly monster striding up and down, in the twilight, before its cairn.

At last Christmas Eve came round, and Thorgaut went out as usual with his sheep. “Have a care, man,” urged the bonder; “go not near to the gill-head, where Glámr lies.”

“Tut, tut! fear not for me. I shall be back by vespers.”

“God grant it,” sighed the housewife; “but ’tis not a day for risks, to be sure. Twilight came on: a feeble light hung over the south, one white streak above the heath land to the south. Far off in southern lands it was still day, but here the darkness gathered in apace, and men came from Vatnsdalr for evensong, to herald in the night when Christ was born. Christmas Eve! How different in Saxon England! There the great ashen faggot is rolled along the hall with torch and taper; the mummers dance with their merry jingling bells; the boar’s head, with gilded tusks, “bedecked with holly and rosemary,” is brought in by the steward to a flourish of trumpets.

How different, too, where the Varanger cluster round the imperial throne in the mighty church of the Eternal Wisdom at this very hour. Outside, the air is soft from breathing over the Bosphorus, which flashes tremulously beneath the stars. The orange and laurel leaves in the palace gardens are still exhaling fragrance in the hush of the Christmas night.

But it is different here. The wind is piercing as a two-edged sword; blocks of ice crash and grind along the coast, and the lake waters are congealed to stone. Aloft, the Aurora flames crimson, flinging long streamers to the zenith, and then suddenly dissolving into a sea of pale green light. The natives are waiting round the churchdoor, but no Thorgaut has returned.

They find him next morning, lying across Glámr’s cairn, with his spine, his leg, and arm-bones shattered. He is conveyed to the churchyard, and a cross is set up at his head. He sleeps peacefully. Not so Glámr; he becomes more furious than ever. No one will remain with Thorhall now, except an old cowherd who has always served the family, and who had long ago dandled his present master on his knee.

“All the cattle will be lost if I leave,” said the carle; “it shall never be told of me that I deserted Thorhall from fear of a spectre.”

Matters grew rapidly worse. Outbuildings were broken into of. a night, and their woodwork was rent and shattered; the house door was violently shaken, and great pieces of it were torn away; the gables of the house were also pulled furiously to and fro.

One morning before dawn, the old man went to the stable. An hour later, his mistress arose, and taking her milking pails, followed him. As she reached the door of the stable, a terrible

sound from within—the bellowing of the cattle, mingled with the deep notes of an unearthly voice—sent her back shrieking to the house. Thorhall leaped out of bed, caught up a weapon, and hastened to the cow-house. On opening the door, he found the cattle goring each other. Slung across the stone that separated the stalls was something. Thorhall stepped up to it, felt it, looked close; it was the cowherd, perfectly dead, his feet on one side of the slab, his head on the other, and his spine snapped in twain. The bonder now moved with his family to Tunga, another farm owned by him lower down the valley; it was too venturesome living during the midwinter night at the haunted farm; and it was not till the sun had returned as a bridegroom out of his chamber, and had dispelled night with its phantoms, that he went back to the Vale of Shadows. In the meantime, his little girl’s health had given way under the repeated alarms of the winter; she became paler every day; with the autumn flowers she faded, and was laid beneath the mould of the churchyard in time for the first snows to spread a virgin pall over her small grave.

At this time Grettir—a hero of great fame, and a native of the north of the island—was in Iceland, and as the hauntings of this vale were matters of gossip throughout the district, he inquired about them, and resolved on visiting the scene. So Grettir busked himself for a cold ride, mounted his horse, and in due course of time drew rein at the door of Thorhall’s farm with the request that he might be accommodated there for the night.

“Ahem!” coughed the bonder; “perhaps you are not aware—”

“I am perfectly aware of all. I want to catch sight of the troll.”

“But your horse is sure to be killed.”

“I will risk it. Glámr I must meet, so there’s an end of it.”

“I am delighted to see you,” spoke the bonder; “at the same time, should mischief befall you, don’t lay the blame at my door.”

“Never fear, man.”

So they shook hands; the horse was put into the strongest stable, Thorhall made Grettir as good cheer as be was able, and then, as the visitor was sleepy, all retired to rest.

The night passed quietly, and no sounds indicated the presence of a restless spirit. The horse, moreover, was found next morning in good condition, enjoying his hay.

“This is unexpected!” exclaimed the bonder, gleefully. “Now, where’s the saddle? We’ll clap it on, and then good-bye, and a merry journey to you.”

“Good-bye!” echoed Grettir; “I am going to stay here another night.”

“You had best be advised,” urged Thorhall; “if misfortune should overtake you, I know that all your kinsmen would visit it on my head.”

“I have made up my mind to stay,” said Grettir, and he looked so dogged that Thorhall opposed him no more.

All was quiet next night; not a sound roused Grettir from his slumber. Next morning he went with the farmer to the stable. The strong wooden door was shivered and driven in. They stepped across it; Grettir called to his horse, but there was no responsive whinny.

“I am afraid—” began Thorhall. Grettir leaped in, and found the poor brute dead, and with its neck broken.

“Now,” said Thorhall quickly, “I’ve got a capital horse—a skewbald—down by Tunga, I shall not be many hours in fetching it; your saddle is here, I think, and then you will just have time to reach—”

“I stay here another night,” interrupted Grettir. “I implore you to depart,” said Thorhall.

“My horse is slain!”

“But I will provide you with another.”

“Friend,” answered Grettir, turning so sharply round that the farmer jumped back, half frightened, “no man ever did me an injury without rueing it. Now, your demon herdsman has been the death of my horse. He must be taught a lesson.”

“Would that he were!” groaned Thorhall; “but mortal must not face him. Go in peace and receive compensation from me for what has happened.”

“I must revenge my horse.”

“An obstinate man will have his own way! But if you run your head against a stone wall, don’t be angry because you get a broken pate.”

Night came on; Grettir ate a hearty supper and was right jovial; not so Thorhall, who had his misgivings. At bedtime the latter crept into his crib, which, in the manner of old Icelandic beds, opened out of the hail, as berths do out of a cabin. Grettir, however, determined on remaining up; so he flung himself on a bench with his feet against the posts of the high seat, and his back against Thorhall’s crib; then he wrapped one lappet of his fur coat round his feet, the other about his head, keeping the neck-opening in front of his face, so that he could look through into the hall.

There was a fire burning on the hearth, a smouldering heap of red embers; every now and then a twig flared up and crackled, giving Grettir glimpses of the rafters, as he lay with his eyes wandering among the mysteries of the smoke-blackened roof. The wind whistled softly overhead. The clerestory windows, covered with the amnion of sheep, admitted now and then a sickly yellow glare from the full moon, which, however, shot a beam of pure silver through the smoke- hole in the roof. A dog without began to howl; the cat, which had long been sitting demurely watching the fire, stood up with raised back and bristling tail, then darted behind some chests in a corner. The hall door was in a sad plight. It had been so riven by the spectre that it was made firm by wattles only, and the moon glinted athwart the crevices. Soothingly the river, not yet frozen over, prattled over its shingly bed as it swept round the knoll on which stood the farm. Grettir heard the breathing of the sleeping women in the adjoining chamber, and the sigh of the housewife as she turned in her bed.

Click! click!—It is only the frozen turf on the roof cracking with the cold. The wind lulls completely. The night is very still without. Hark! a heavy tread, beneath which the snow yields. Every footfall goes straight to Grettir’s heart. A crash on the turf overhead! By all the saints in paradise! The monster is treading on the roof. For one moment the chimney-gap is completely darkened: Glámr is looking down it; the flash of the red ash is reflected in the two lustreless eyes. Then the moon glances sweetly in once more, and the heavy tramp of Glámr is audibly moving towards the farther end of the hall. A thud—he has leaped down. Grettir feels the board at his back quivering, for Thorhall is awake and is trembling in his bed. The steps pass round to the back of the house, and then the snapping of the wood shows that the creature is destroying some of the outhouse doors. He tires of this apparently, for his footfall comes clear towards the main entrance to the hail. The moon is veiled behind a watery cloud, and by the uncertain glimmer Grettir fancies that he sees two dark hands thrust in above the door. His apprehensions are verified, for, with a loud snap, a long strip of panel breaks, and light is admitted. Snap— snap! another portion gives way, and the gap becomes larger. Then the wattles slip from their places, and a dark arm rips them out in bunches, and flings them away. There is a cross-beam to the door, holding a bolt which slides into a stone groove. Against the grey light, Grettir sees a huge black figure heaving itself over the bar. Crack! that has given way, and the rest of the door falls in shivers to the earth.

“Oh, heavens above!” exclaims the bonder.

Stealthily the dead man creeps on, feeling at the beams as he comes; then he stands in the hall, with the firelight on him. A fearful sight; the tall figure distended with the corruption of the grave, the nose fallen off, the wandering, vacant eyes, with the glaze of death on them, the sallow flesh patched with green masses of decay; the wolf-grey hair and beard have grown in the tomb, and hang matted about the shoulders and breast; the nails, too, they have grown. It is a sickening sight—a thing to shudder at, not to see.

Motionless, with no nerve quivering now, Thorhall and Grettir held their breath. Glámr’s lifeless glance strayed round the chamber; it rested on the shaggy bundle by the high seat. Cautiously he stepped towards it. Grettir felt him groping about the lower lappet and pulling at it. The cloak did not give way. Another jerk; Grettir kept his feet firmly pressed against the posts, so that the rug was not pulled off. The vampire seemed puzzled, he plucked at the upper flap and tugged. Grettir held to the bench and bed-board, so that he was not moved, but the cloak was rent in twain, and the corpse staggered back, holding half in its hands, and gazing wonderingly at it. Before it had done examining the shred, Grettir started to his feet, bowed his body, flung his arms about the carcass, and, driving his head into the chest, strove to bend it backward and snap the spine. A vain attempt! The cold hands came down on Grettir’s arms with diabolical force, riving them from their hold. Grettir clasped them about the body again; then the arms closed round him, and began dragging him along. The brave man clung by his feet to benches and posts, but the strength of the vampire was the greater; posts gave way, benches were heaved from their places, and the wrestlers at each moment neared the door. Sharply writhing loose, Grettir flung his hands round a roof-beam. He was dragged from his feet; the numbing arms clenched him round the waist, and tore at him; every tendon in his breast was strained; the strain under his shoulders became excruciating, the muscles stood out in knots. Still he held on; his fingers were bloodless; the pulses of his temples throbbed in jerks; the breath came in a whistle through his rigid nostrils. All the while, too, the long nails of the dead man cut into his side, and Grettir could feel them piercing like knives between his ribs. Then at once his hands gave way, and the monster bore him reeling towards the porch, crashing over the broken fragments of the door. Hard as the battle had gone with him indoors, Grettir knew that it would go worse outside, so he gathered up all his remaining strength for one final desperate struggle. The door had been shut with a swivel into a groove; this groove was in a stone, which formed the jamb on one side, and there was a similar block on the other, into which the hinges had been driven. As the wrestlers neared the opening, Grettir planted both his feet against the stone posts, holding Glámr by the middle. He had the advantage now. The dead man writhed in his arms, drove his talons into Grettir’s back, and tore up great ribbons of flesh, but the stone jambs held firm.

“Now,” thought Grettir, “I can break his back,” and thrusting his head under the chin, so that the grizzly beard covered his eyes, he forced the face from him, and the back was bent as a hazel-rod.

“If I can but hold on,” thought Grettir, and he tried to shout for Thorhall, but his voice was muffled in the hair of the corpse.

Suddenly one or both of the door-posts gave way. Down crashed the gable trees, ripping beams and rafters from their beds; frozen clods of earth rattled from the roof and thumped into the snow, Glámr fell on his back, and Grettir staggered down on top of him. The moon was at her full; large white clouds chased each other across the sky, and as they swept before her disk she looked through them with a brown halo round her. The snow-cap of Jorundarfell, however, glowed like a planet, then the white mountain ridge was kindled, the light ran down the hillside, the bright disk stared out of the veil and flashed at this moment full on the vampire’s face. Grettir’s strength was failing him, his hands quivered in the snow, and he knew that he could not support himself from dropping flat on the dead man’s face, eye to eye, lip to lip. The eyes of the corpse were fixed on him, lit with the cold glare of the moon. His head swam as his heart sent a hot stream to his brain. Then a voice from the grey lips said—

“Thou hast acted madly in seeking to match thyself with me. Now learn that henceforth ill-luck shall constantly attend thee; that thy strength shall never exceed what it now is, and that by night these eyes of mine shall stare at thee through the darkness till thy dying day, so that for very horror thou shalt not endure to be alone.”

Grettir at this moment noticed that his dirk had slipped from its sheath during the fall, and that it now lay conveniently near his hand. The giddiness which had oppressed him passed away, he clutched at the sword-haft, and with a blow severed the vampire’s throat. Then, kneeling on the breast, he hacked till the head came off.

Thorhall appeared now, his face blanched with terror, but when he saw how the fray had terminated he assisted Grettir gleefully to roll the corpse on the top of a pile of faggots, which had been collected for winter fuel. Fire was applied, and soon far down the valley the flames of the pyre startled people, and made them wonder what new horror was being enacted in the upper portion of the Vale of Shadows.

Next day the charred bones were conveyed to a spot remote from the habitations of men, and were there buried.

What Glámr had predicted came to pass. Never after did Grettir dare to be alone in the dark.


Sabine Baring-Gould…28 January 1834 – 2 January 1924) of Lew Trenchard in Devon, England, was an Anglican priest, hagiographerantiquarian, novelist, folk song collector and eclectic scholar. His bibliography consists of more than 1,240 publications, though this list continues to grow. His family home, the manor house of Lew Trenchard, near Okehampton, Devon, has been preserved as he had it rebuilt and is now a hotel. He is remembered particularly as a writer of hymns, the best-known being “Onward, Christian Soldiers“, “Sing Lullaby”, and “Now the Day Is Over”. He also translated the carol “Gabriel’s Message” from the Basque language to English.

…Baring-Gould wrote many novels, including The Broom-Squire set in the Devil’s Punch Bowl (1896), Mehalah: a story of the salt marshes (1880), Guavas the Tinner (1897), the 16-volume The Lives of the Saints, and the biography of the eccentric poet-vicar of MorwenstowRobert Stephen Hawker. He also published nearly 200 short stories in assorted magazines and periodicals. Many of these short stories were collected together and republished as anthologies, such as his Book of Ghosts (1904), Dartmoor Idyllys (1896), and In a Quiet Village (1900). His folkloric studies resulted in The Book of Were-Wolves (1865), one of the most frequently cited studies of lycanthropy. He habitually wrote while standing, and his desk can be seen in the manor. [from the Wikipedia article]

If you enjoyed this story, you might also enjoy Baring-Gould’s The Book of Werewolves available in The Chamber’s Bookshop.

You might also enjoy “A Cup of Kindness”, a dark, contemporary retelling of a traditional fairy tale by Kelly Jarvis, which was published in the August edition of The Chamber Magazine

Video with Submission Tips Added to Submissions Page

I have whipped up a rough video with a few tips on submitting short fiction to The Chamber and added it to the Submissions page. I am still learning the ins and outs of creating videos, so please be merciful in your critique of it. Please also note, on a personal aside, that I am often perceived by many people as rough and abrasive even when I am happy. With some practice, these videos, will become more professional and hopefully more enjoyable and more helpful to watch.

I have posted this and a few other rudimentary videos to both The Chamber’s YouTube channel and to my own YouTube channel. Check them out if you get the chance. A lot of them I do just to learn how to create videos while, at this point, only a few are for informational purposes. I hope to add more frequently as my production skills increase.

Now Taking Submissions for the October 7 Issue!

The Chamber Magazine: Contemporary Dark Fiction and Poetry is now taking submissions for the October 7 issue.

The Chamber is now taking submissions for the October 7 issue. Submissions for the September issue are closed. Halloween-related material is welcome but not required to submit. Please have your submission in before October 1. Be sure to include the genre and/or subgenre of your work in your cover letter along with the word count and a bio of approximately fifty words or less.

Check out the latest in our Bookshop and Gift Shop while you are here.

Video with Submission Tips Added to Submissions Page

I have whipped up a rough video with a few tips on submitting short fiction to The Chamber and added it to the Submissions page. I am still learning the ins and outs of creating videos, so please be merciful in your critique of it. Please also note, on a personal aside, that I am often perceived by many people as rough and abrasive even when I am happy. With some practice, these videos, will become more professional and hopefully more enjoyable and more helpful to watch.

I have posted this and a few other rudimentary videos to both The Chamber’s YouTube channel and to my own YouTube channel. Check them out if you get the chance. A lot of them I do just to learn how to create videos while, at this point, only a few are for informational purposes. I hope to add more frequently as my production skills increase.

Video with Submission Tips Added to Submissions Page

I have whipped up a rough video with a few tips on submitting short fiction to The Chamber and added it to the Submissions page. I am still learning the ins and outs of creating videos, so please be merciful in your critique of it. Please also note, on a personal aside, that I am often perceived by many people as rough and abrasive even when I am happy. With some practice, these videos, will become more professional and hopefully more enjoyable and more helpful to watch.

I have posted this and a few other rudimentary videos to both The Chamber’s YouTube channel and to my own YouTube channel. Check them out if you get the chance. A lot of them I do just to learn how to create videos while, at this point, only a few are for informational purposes. I hope to add more frequently as my production skills increase.

Day 2 of the Jack the Ripper Remembrance

In the spirit of the horror and true crime genres, over the next several weeks in its blog, The Chamber is remembering the horrific murder spree of the infamous Jack the Ripper during the late summer and early fall of 1888. At 10:00 a.m. (US Central Time) on the anniversary of each of the five “canonical” murders (August 31, September 8, September 30, and November 9) , The Chamber will run a documentary on Jack the Ripper from YouTube along with a few other esoteric tidbits of information. So grab the tea or coffee of you choice and a light breakfast and join us for should be four intense yet fascinating mornings.


Tonight is the anniversary of the murder of Annie Chapman (born Eliza Ann Smith in 1840–God rest her soul). Annie’s story is a tragedy typical of the times. She was born into an average family, but always had a weakness for drink (particularly rum) from a young age. She married John Chapman, a servant to a wealthy family, when she was 29. They had three children, Emily, Annie, and John, who was born crippled and had to be institutionalized eventually. Emily died of meningitis at age 12. Although Annie had quit drinking by 1880, after Emily’s death she and John both began drinking heavily.

Annie Chapman, 1869
Annie Chapman, 1869

In 1886, Annie and John separated by mutual consent with John retaining custody of the children. However, after this John sent Annie 10 shillings/week to live on. There were very few job opportunities for women in the 1880’s. In 1886, John died of alcoholism on Christmas day. Annie then had to struggle to make money any way she could to survive. By that time she was staying with a man who made wire sieves. Sometime after that, she was staying in a lodging house with a man named Edward Stanley and he often paid for the room. Annie made money any way she could, whether by crochet work, selling flowers, or prostitution.

On the night of September 8, Annie lacked the money to pay for her nightly lodging at Crossingham’s Lodging House. Therefore, she told a fellow lodger to tell the landlord she would be back with the money soon and left, possibly to prostitute herself. Sometime later she encountered Jack the Ripper.

For more information on the tragic lives of the Ripper’s victims, this video provides a good summary.

Just today (August 25), I ran across this video on one possible solution to the Jack the Ripper mystery. This is a video by Pat Brown, a former criminal profiler. She believes the Ripper to have been Jacob Levy, a local butcher. Her reasoning is very interesting. For one example: Jacob Levy is known to have been a local butcher with a shop in Whitechapel. Ms. Brown believes that this explains one reason that the Ripper could disappear so quickly after a murder: he ran to his shop.

One word about the video: the first fifteen minutes are boring as Pat Brown explains why she was the first to come up with this theory instead of several others who developed after she did. However, what she reveals is worth suffering the boredom.

For more information on Jack the Ripper, this Wikipedia article provides a summary of Jack the Ripper’s murder spree. For more excellent Jack the Ripper YouTube videos, follow this link to “Missing Evidence: Jack the Ripper” and “Unmasking Jack the Ripper”, whose producers limited them to be played only on YouTube

More superb videos on Jack the Ripper are available to you on The Chamber’s Jack the Ripper Playlist on YouTube.

The Illustrated Police News for September 8, 1888
The Illustrated Police News for September 8, 1888

You are invited to The Chamber Magazine’s Remembrance of the Jack the Ripper’s Murder Spree

In the spirit of the horror and true crime genres, over the next several weeks The Chamber is commemorating the horrific murder spree of the infamous Jack the Ripper during the late summer and early fall of 1888.

In the spirit of the horror and true crime genres, over the next several weeks in its blog, The Chamber is remembering the horrific murder spree of the infamous Jack the Ripper during the late summer and early fall of 1888. At 10:00 a.m. (US Central Time) on the anniversary of each of the five “canonical” murders (August 31, September 8, September 30, and November 9) , The Chamber will run a documentary on Jack the Ripper from YouTube along with a few other esoteric tidbits of information. So grab the tea or coffee of you choice and a light breakfast and join us for should be four intense yet fascinating mornings.

Update: New Videos at The Chamber’s YouTube Channel

The Chamber's YouTube Channel

Two new videos have been added to The Chamber’s YouTube Channel. One talks about changes coming to the Channel, while the other gives tips on submitting short fiction to The Chamber. Please be merciful in critiquing these. They are first steps in a skill that I am far from mastering yet.

The Saturday Night Special: “The Boarded Window” by Ambrose Bierce (1891)

Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce (June 24, 1842 – c. 1914) was an American short story writer, journalist, poet, and American Civil War veteran. His book The Devil's Dictionary was named as one of "The 100 Greatest Masterpieces of American Literature" by the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration. His story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" has been described as "one of the most famous and frequently anthologized stories in American literature", and his book Tales of Soldiers and Civilians (also published as In the Midst of Life) was named by the Grolier Club as one of the 100 most influential American books printed before 1900.... [from the Wikipedia article on Ambrose Bierce]

In 1830, only a few miles away from what is now the great city of Cincinnati, lay an immense and almost unbroken forest. The whole region was sparsely settled by people of the frontier–restless souls who no sooner had hewn fairly habitable homes out of the wilderness and attained to that degree of prosperity which today we should call indigence, than, impelled by some mysterious impulse of their nature, they abandoned all and pushed farther westward, to encounter new perils and privations in the effort to regain the meager comforts which they had voluntarily renounced. Many of them had already forsaken that region for the remoter settlements, but among those remaining was one who had been of those first arriving. He lived alone in a house of logs surrounded on all sides by the great forest, of whose gloom and silence he seemed a part, for no one had ever known him to smile nor speak a needless word. His simple wants were supplied by the sale or barter of skins of wild animals in the river town, for not a thing did he grow upon the land which, if needful, he might have claimed by right of undisturbed possession. There were evidences of “improvement”–a few acres of ground immediately about the house had once been cleared of its trees, the decayed stumps of which were half concealed by the new growth that had been suffered to repair the ravage wrought by the ax. Apparently the man’s zeal for agriculture had burned with a failing flame, expiring in penitential ashes.

The little log house, with its chimney of sticks, its roof of warping clapboards weighted with traversing poles and its “chinking” of clay, had a single door and, directly opposite, a window. The latter, however, was boarded up–nobody could remember a time when it was not. And none knew why it was so closed; certainly not because of the occupant’s dislike of light and air, for on those rare occasions when a hunter had passed that lonely spot the recluse had commonly been seen sunning himself on his doorstep if heaven had provided sunshine for his need. I fancy there are few persons living today who ever knew the secret of that window, but I am one, as you shall see.

The man’s name was said to be Murlock. He was apparently seventy years old, actually about fifty. Something besides years had had a hand in his aging. His hair and long, full beard were white, his gray, lusterless eyes sunken, his face singularly seamed with wrinkles which appeared to belong to two intersecting systems. In figure he was tall and spare, with a stoop of the shoulders–a burden bearer. I never saw him; these particulars I learned from my grandfather, from whom also I got the man’s story when I was a lad. He had known him when living near by in that early day.

One day Murlock was found in his cabin, dead. It was not a time and place for coroners and newspapers, and I suppose it was agreed that he had died from natural causes or I should have been told, and should remember. I know only that with what was probably a sense of the fitness of things the body was buried near the cabin, alongside the grave of his wife, who had preceded him by so many years that local tradition had retained hardly a hint of her existence. That closes the final chapter of this true story–excepting, indeed, the circumstance that many years afterward, in company with an equally intrepid spirit, I penetrated to the place and ventured near enough to the ruined cabin to throw a stone against it, and ran away to avoid the ghost which every well-informed boy thereabout knew haunted the spot. But there is an earlier chapter–that supplied by my grandfather.

When Murlock built his cabin and began laying sturdily about with his ax to hew out a farm–the rifle, meanwhile, his means of support–he was young, strong and full of hope. In that eastern country whence he came he had married, as was the fashion, a young woman in all ways worthy of his honest devotion, who shared the dangers and privations of his lot with a willing spirit and light heart. There is no known record of her name; of her charms of mind and person tradition is silent and the doubter is at liberty to entertain his doubt; but God forbid that I should share it! Of their affection and happiness there is abundant assurance in every added day of the man’s widowed life; for what but the magnetism of a blessed memory could have chained that venturesome spirit to a lot like that?

One day Murlock returned from gunning in a distant part of the forest to find his wife prostrate with fever, and delirious. There was no physician within miles, no neighbor; nor was she in a condition to be left, to summon help. So he set about the task of nursing her back to health, but at the end of the third day she fell into unconsciousness and so passed away, apparently, with never a gleam of returning reason.

From what we know of a nature like his we may venture to sketch in some of the details of the outline picture drawn by my grandfather. When convinced that she was dead, Murlock had sense enough to remember that the dead must be prepared for burial. In performance of this sacred duty he blundered now and again, did certain things incorrectly, and others which he did correctly were done over and over. His occasional failures to accomplish some simple and ordinary act filled him with astonishment, like that of a drunken man who wonders at the suspension of familiar natural laws. He was surprised, too, that he did not weep–surprised and a little ashamed; surely it is unkind not to weep for the dead. “Tomorrow,” he said aloud, “I shall have to make the coffin and dig the grave; and then I shall miss her, when she is no longer in sight; but now–she is dead, of course, but it is all right–it must be all right, somehow. Things cannot be so bad as they seem.”

He stood over the body in the fading light, adjusting the hair and putting the finishing touches to the simple toilet, doing all mechanically, with soulless care. And still through his consciousness ran an undersense of conviction that all was right–that he should have her again as before, and everything explained. He had had no experience in grief; his capacity had not been enlarged by use. His heart could not contain it all, nor his imagination rightly conceive it. He did not know he was so hard struck; that knowledge would come later, and never go. Grief is an artist of powers as various as the instruments upon which he plays his dirges for the dead, evoking from some the sharpest, shrillest notes, from others the low, grave chords that throb recurrent like the slow beating of a distant drum. Some natures it startles; some it stupefies. To one it comes like the stroke of an arrow, stinging all the sensibilities to a keener life; to another as the blow of a bludgeon, which in crushing benumbs. We may conceive Murlock to have been that way affected, for and here we are upon surer ground than that of conjecture no sooner had he finished his pious work than, sinking into a chair by the side of the table upon which the body lay, and noting how white the profile showed in the deepening gloom, he laid his arms upon the table’s edge, and dropped his face into them, tearless yet and unutterably weary. At that moment came in through the open window a long, wailing sound like the cry of a lost child in the far deeps of the darkening woods! But the man did not move. Again, and nearer than before, sounded that unearthly cry upon his failing sense. Perhaps it was a wild beast; perhaps it was a dream. For Murlock was asleep.

Some hours later, as it afterward appeared, this unfaithful watcher awoke and lifting his head from his arms intently listened–he knew not why. There in the black darkness by the side of the dead, recalling all without a shock, he strained his eyes to see–he knew not what. His senses were all alert, his breath was suspended, his blood had stilled its tides as if to assist the silence. Who–what had waked him, and where was it?

Suddenly the table shook beneath his arms, and at the same moment he heard, or fancied that he heard, a light, soft step–another–sounds as of bare feet upon the floor!

He was terrified beyond the power to cry out or move. Perforce he waited–waited there in the darkness through seeming centuries of such dread as one may know, yet live to tell. He tried vainly to speak the dead woman’s name, vainly to stretch forth his hand across the table to learn if she were there. His throat was powerless, his arms and hands were like lead. Then occurred something most frightful. Some heavy body seemed hurled against the table with an impetus that pushed it against his breast so sharply as nearly to overthrow him, and at the same instant he heard and felt the fall of something upon the floor with so violent a thump that the whole house was shaken by the impact. A scuffling ensued, and a confusion of sounds impossible to describe. Murlock had risen to his feet. Fear had by excess forfeited control of his faculties. He flung his hands upon the table. Nothing was there!

There is a point at which terror may turn to madness; and madness incites to action. With no definite intent, from no motive but the wayward impulse of a madman, Murlock sprang to the wall, with a little groping seized his loaded rifle, and without aim discharged it. By the flash which lit up the room with a vivid illumination, he saw an enormous panther dragging the dead woman toward the window, its teeth fixed in her throat! Then there were darkness blacker than before, and silence; and when he returned to consciousness the sun was high and the wood vocal with songs of birds.

The body lay near the window, where the beast had left it when frightened away by the flash and report of the rifle. The clothing was deranged, the long hair in disorder, the limbs lay anyhow. From the throat, dreadfully lacerated, had issued a pool of blood not yet entirely coagulated. The ribbon with which he had bound the wrists was broken; the hands were tightly clenched. Between the teeth was a fragment of the animal’s ear


Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce (June 24, 1842 – c. 1914) was an American short story writer, journalist, poet, and American Civil War veteran. His book The Devil’s Dictionary was named as one of “The 100 Greatest Masterpieces of American Literature” by the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration. His story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” has been described as “one of the most famous and frequently anthologized stories in American literature”, and his book Tales of Soldiers and Civilians (also published as In the Midst of Life) was named by the Grolier Club as one of the 100 most influential American books printed before 1900…. [from the Wikipedia article on Ambrose Bierce]

If you enjoyed this story, you might also enjoy Ghost and Horror Stories of Ambrose Bierce, available in The Chamber’s Bookshop.

You might also enjoy reading “The Damned Thing” by Ambrose Bierce, which appeared in an earlier edition of The Chamber.

The Chamber’s September Issue is Now Out

Due to what I am terming “technical issues”, I did not post all of the submissions for this edition at 10:00 a.m. as I normally. However, I have worked diligently to see that all of them were published on September 2 as promised. If I promised you that I would print one or more works of your on September 2, please go to the magazine now and check that a) your work is there and b) there are no technical issues with it.

Thank you for your time and patience.

Respectfully,

Phil Slattery, Publisher and Editor of The Chamber Magazine.

The Chamber’s September Issue is Now Out

Due to what I am terming “technical issues”, I did not post all of the submissions for this edition at 10:00 a.m. as I normally. However, I have worked diligently to see that all of them were published on September 2 as promised. If I promised you that I would print one or more works of your on September 2, please go to the magazine now and check that a) your work is there and b) there are no technical issues with it.

Thank you for your time and patience.

Respectfully,

Phil Slattery, Publisher and Editor of The Chamber Magazine.

Contents September 2022

Contents

Short Fiction

“The Great British Stag Night” Dark Fiction by James Burt

“His Assistant” Dark Fiction by Patrick Crossen

“The Man with a Ghost in his Eyes” Psychological Horror by Kate Bergquist

“The Well” Horror by Sadie Kraus

“Nemesis” Post-Apocalyptic Feline Horror by Rudolfo San Miguel

“The Golem of Slotnick Hills” Supernatural Fiction by Matthew Ross

“Nycotophobia” Horror by Jordon Jones

“Pinstripe” Suspense by George Gill

“The Haves and Have Nots” Dark Speculative Fiction by Martha Juliet

“Midnight Galaxy” Horror by Rituparna Mitra

“I Am Not a Crook” Dark Humor by James Hanna

“Envy” Horror by Eric Dawson

Flash Fiction

“Happy Again” Dark Flash Fiction by Kyelar Engen

“The Masks” Dark, Modernist Horror by Kimberley Luxton

“Team Meeting” Dark Flash Fiction by Jacob Strunk

“bang dammit slam” Dark Flash Fiction by Daniel Solomon

Poetry

Three Dark Poems by Jack Harvey: “Relics”, “Cassandra”, and “New York Down and Dirty”

Two Dark Poems by David Galef: “Insomnia, Take 7” and “Precipitation”

Three Dark Poems by Stephen Jarrell Williams: “Out of This World”, “Longing” and “Bitter”

Two Dark Poems by Keea Mihaly: “Obsequy” and “Perfidy”

“War Stone” Dark Poem by Jamie Seibel

The Next Issue Appears October 7

Now Taking Submissions for the October 7 Issue!

The Chamber Magazine: Contemporary Dark Fiction and Poetry is now taking submissions for the October 7 issue.

The Chamber is now taking submissions for the October 7 issue. Submissions for the September issue are closed. Halloween-related material is welcome but not required to submit. Please have your submission in before October 1. Be sure to include the genre and/or subgenre of your work in your cover letter along with the word count and a bio of approximately fifty words or less.

Check out the latest in our Bookshop and Gift Shop while you are here.

You are invited to The Chamber Magazine’s Remembrance of the Jack the Ripper’s Murder Spree

In the spirit of the horror and true crime genres, over the next several weeks The Chamber is commemorating the horrific murder spree of the infamous Jack the Ripper during the late summer and early fall of 1888.

In the spirit of the horror and true crime genres, over the next several weeks in its blog, The Chamber is remembering the horrific murder spree of the infamous Jack the Ripper during the late summer and early fall of 1888. At 10:00 a.m. (US Central Time) on the anniversary of each of the five “canonical” murders (August 31, September 8, September 30, and November 9) , The Chamber will run a documentary on Jack the Ripper from YouTube along with a few other esoteric tidbits of information. So grab the tea or coffee of you choice and a light breakfast and join us for should be four intense yet fascinating mornings.

Day 1 of the Jack the Ripper Remembrance

In the spirit of the horror and true crime genres, over the next several weeks in its blog, The Chamber is remembering the horrific murder spree of the infamous Jack the Ripper during the late summer and early fall of 1888. At 10:00 a.m. (US Central Time) on the anniversary of each of the five “canonical” murders (August 31, September 8, September 30, and November 9) , The Chamber will run a documentary on Jack the Ripper from YouTube along with a few other esoteric tidbits of information. So grab the tea or coffee of you choice and a light breakfast and join us for should be four intense yet fascinating mornings.


Jack the Ripper is probably the most famous serial killer in the English-speaking world. 134 years after his killing of five prostitutes (a puny number compared with the serial killers of the late 20th century) his name still instills fear, shock, and trepidation. Undoubtedly, the terror associated with his name comes from the way he killed, as he suddenly materialized out of the darkness in a nearly empty street to brutally and viciously butcher a woman with apparently intense hatred in only a few minutes and then disappear back into the darkness like a phantom. This idea of a sudden and incredibly violent death out of nowhere must strike a primal fear in nearly everyone and this fear is compounded by the Ripper’s anonymity. As Lovecraft famously said:

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown

H.P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror in Literature (1927)

Another terrifying perspective on the Ripper murders is that they show a purely evil side of human nature. Again, the Ripper’s anonymity magnifies this when one considers that this evil could be lurking in anyone, even people we consider harmless and inoffensive, but it is hidden so well that we might never recognize it until our throats are already cut.

PC_Jonas_Mizen_Discovers_Mary_Ann_Nichols_31_August_1888A.jpg
PC Mizen comes upon the first Ripper victim, Mary Ann Nichols in the early morning of August 31, 1888.

Why then should we want to remember the Ripper? One would think that we would forget something like this that is so far in the past that it can no longer affect us, but that is not the case. While the Ripper without doubt died decades ago (unless you believe the Ripper is eternal as in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode “Wolf in the Fold”), there is nothing to say that it could not happen again but perpetrated by a successor. So, perhaps it is best that we remember “Saucy Jacky” to keep us from being too comfortable in our lives and we foolishly start to believe that a sudden, gruesome demise out of nowhere could not happen to us.


Almost thirty years ago, I started on a novel about a fictitious serial killer and I researched the backstory by reading everything I could lay my hands on about serial killers until, after a few years, the research became so nauseating that I put it all aside and did not start on it again until recently. While I am no forensic psychologist and have no college credits in forensic psychology, I believe this research did give me a modicum of insight into the nature of serial killers and a rudimentary familiarity with the basics of how their minds work. I will do my best to apply this in my layman’s analysis of certain aspects of the Ripper case as this series progresses. I can offer no solid answers to any aspect of the Ripper case, but I do hope to pose some questions to which you will enjoy finding the answers on your own.

The first question I pose to you is: where did The Ripper originate? How did he come to be “Saucy Jacky”?

Modern forensic psychology can develop a basic profile of the Ripper (late 30’s to early 40’s, probably Caucasian, probably isolated, possibly quiet, probably rather poor, though he could also be from the upper middle class, probably comes from a broken home, probably tortured small animals as a boy, if he was indeed a boy, and gradually progressed to murdering adult women to whom he was sexually attracted). How accurate is this profile? No one knows or probably will ever know, but this is probably one of the best descriptions we can have of the Ripper to date.

Jack did not spring out over night as a serial killer. Abilities like his develop over many years, usually starting with tormenting pets and strays and then children and then, finally, adults. So it is likely that the Ripper had several more victims well before the murders in Whitechapel began. Indeed, the five victims most commonly associated with the Ripper and known as “the canonical five” as they are almost certainly the work of one man (or of one woman). There are a few others before and after the cases of the canonical five that might have been the work of the Ripper, but they could also have been the work of someone else as well, because they were not committed in quite the same style as that of Saucy Jacky. This may be because the Ripper was developing his style at the time, and because the science of forensics was in its infancy, thus what we would consider pertinent details of many cases today were not recorded. Therefore, the true tally of the Ripper’s victims will probably never be accurately known.

I believe you will see this development as you watch these videos. The first murder of the Ripper’s, that of Mary Ann Nichols, was violent, but it was nothing compared with the final murder, that of Mary Jane Kelly, whose gruesomeness is still legendary. You will also notice that the Ripper gradually learns to find his victims in increasingly isolated areas, where he is able to take more and more time with his unholy work.

Of course, this makes me wonder if, after the Mary Jane Kelly murder, the Ripper was never caught because he developed his black art to such as a degree that police investigations of the period were simply insufficient to catch him. So far as anyone knows, Jack may have gone on killing for decades. In fact, some theories as to why he stopped pose this very question, with one even stating that he came to the US and pursued his work over several states.

With those few points now brought into the open, I will now let you start your own visit into the world of Jack the Ripper during the late summer and early fall in late Victorian-era London.

Buck's Row, now Durward Street, east London, where the body of Mary Ann Nichols, victim of Jack the Ripper, was found lying across the gutter.
Buck’s Row, now Durward Street, east London, where the body of Mary Ann Nichols, first victim of Jack the Ripper, was found lying across the gutter.

For more information on Jack the Ripper, this Wikipedia article provides a summary of Jack the Ripper’s murder spree. For more excellent Jack the Ripper YouTube videos, follow this link to “Missing Evidence: Jack the Ripper” and “Unmasking Jack the Ripper”, whose producers limited them to be played only on YouTube

More superb videos on Jack the Ripper are available to you on The Chamber’s Jack the Ripper Playlist on YouTube.

Frederick George Abberline (January 8, 1843 Blandford Forum, Dorset – December 10, 1929) attending "Dynamitards" trial (1885). Abberline was an inspector for the London Metropolitan Police and was a prominent police figure in the investigation into the Jack the Ripper murders.

Sketch of Inspector Frederick George Abberline (1843-1929) in 1885. He was the lead investigator in the Ripper murders. He was portrayed by Johnny Depp in the movie “From Hell”. See the trailer below for more information.

The Saturday Night Special: “At the End of the Passage” by Rudyard Kipling

Portrait of Rudyard Kipling by John Collier, 1891 accompanying "At the End of the Passage" in the August 28 Saturday Night Special in The Chamber Magazine
Portrait of Rudyard Kipling by John Collier, 1891
The sky is lead and our faces are red,
And the gates of Hell are opened and riven,
And the winds of Hell are loosened and driven,
And the dust flies up in the face of Heaven,
And the clouds come down in a fiery sheet,
Heavy to raise and hard to be borne.
And the soul of man is turned from his meat,
Turned from the trifles for which he has striven
Sick in his body, and heavy hearted,
And his soul flies up like the dust in the sheet
Breaks from his flesh and is gone and departed,
As the blasts they blow on the cholera-horn.

Four men, each entitled to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’, sat at a table playing whist. The thermometer marked—for them—one hundred and one degrees of heat. The room was darkened till it was only just possible to distinguish the pips of the cards and the very white faces of the players. A tattered, rotten punkah of whitewashed calico was puddling the hot air and whining dolefully at each stroke. Outside lay gloom of a November day in London. There was neither sky, sun, nor horizon—nothing but a brown purple haze of heat. It was as though the earth were dying of apoplexy.From time to time clouds of tawny dust rose from the ground without wind or warning, flung themselves tablecloth-wise among the tops of the parched trees, and came down again. Then a-whirling dust-devil would scutter across the plain for a couple of miles, break, and fall outward, though there was nothing to check its flight save a long low line of piled railway-sleepers white with the dust, a cluster of huts made of mud, condemned rails, and canvas, and the one squat four-roomed bungalow that belonged to the assistant engineer in charge of a section of the Gaudhari State line then under construction.

The four, stripped to the thinnest of sleeping-suits, played whist crossly, with wranglings as to leads and returns. It was not the best kind of whist, but they had taken some trouble to arrive at it. Mottram of the Indian Survey had ridden thirty and railed one hundred miles from his lonely post in the desert since the night before; Lowndes of the Civil Service, on special duty in the political department, had come as far to escape for an instant the miserable intrigues of an impoverished native State whose king alternately fawned and blustered for more money from the pitiful revenues contributed by hard-wrung peasants and despairing camel-breeders; Spurstow, the doctor of the line, had left a cholera-stricken camp of coolies to look after itself for forty-eight hours while he associated with white men once more. Hummil, the assistant engineer, was the host. He stood fast and received his friends thus every Sunday if they could come in. When one of them failed to appear, he would send a telegram to his last address, in order that he might know whether the defaulter were dead or alive. There are very many places in the East where it is not good or kind to let your acquaintances drop out of sight even for one short week.

The players were not conscious of any special regard for each other. They squabbled whenever they met; but they ardently desired to meet, as men without water desire to drink. They were lonely folk who understood the dread meaning of loneliness. They were all under thirty years of age—which is too soon for any man to possess that knowledge.

‘Pilsener?’ said Spurstow, after the second rubber, mopping his forehead.

‘Beer’s out, I’m sorry to say, and there’s hardly enough soda-water for tonight,’ said Hummil.

‘What filthy bad management!’ Spurstow snarled.

‘Can’t help it. I’ve written and wired; but the trains don’t come through regularly yet. Last week the ice ran out—as Lowndes knows.’

‘Glad I didn’t come. I could ha’ sent you some if I had known, though. Phew! it’s too hot to go on playing bumblepuppy.’ This with a savage scowl at Lowndes, who only laughed. He was a hardened offender.

Mottram rose from the table and looked out of a chink in the shutters.

‘What a sweet day!’ said he.

The company yawned all together and betook themselves to an aimless investigation of all Hummil’s possessions—guns, tattered novels, saddlery, spurs, and the like. They had fingered them a score of times before, but there was really nothing else to do.

‘Got anything fresh?’ said Lowndes.

‘Last week’s Gazette of India, and a cutting from a home paper. My father sent it out. It’s rather amusing.’

‘One of those vestrymen that call ’emselves M.P.s again, is it?’ said Spurstow, who read his newspapers when he could get them.

‘Yes. Listen to this. It’s to your address, Lowndes. The man was making a speech to his constituents, and he piled it on. Here’s a sample, “And I assert unhesitatingly that the Civil Service in India is the preserve—the pet preserve—of the aristocracy of England. What does the democracy—what do the masses—get from that country, which we have step by step fraudulently annexed? I answer, nothing whatever. It is farmed with a single eye to their own interests by the scions of the aristocracy. They take good care to maintain their lavish scale of incomes, to avoid or stifle any inquiries into the nature and conduct of their administration, while they themselves force the unhappy peasant to pay with the sweat of his brow for all the luxuries in which they are lapped.”’ Hummil waved the cutting above his head. ‘’Ear! ’ear!’ said his audience.

Then Lowndes, meditatively, ‘I’d give—I’d give three months’ pay to have that gentleman spend one month with me and see how the free and independent native prince works things. Old Timbersides’—this was his flippant title for an honoured and decorated feudatory prince—‘has been wearing my life out this week past for money. By Jove, his latest performance was to send me one of his women as a bribe!’

‘Good for you! Did you accept it?’ said Mottram.

‘No. I rather wish I had, now. She was a pretty little person, and she yarned away to me about the horrible destitution among the king’s women-folk. The darlings haven’t had any new clothes for nearly a month, and the old man wants to buy a new drag from Calcutta—solid silver railings and silver lamps, and trifles of that kind. I’ve tried to make him understand that he has played the deuce with the revenues for the last twenty years and must go slow. He can’t see it.’

‘But he has the ancestral treasure-vaults to draw on. There must be three millions at least in jewels and coin under his palace,’ said Hummil.

‘Catch a native king disturbing the family treasure! The priests forbid it except as the last resort. Old Timbersides has added something like a quarter of a million to the deposit in his reign.’

‘Where the mischief does it all come from?’ said Mottram.

‘The country. The state of the people is enough to make you sick. I’ve known the taxmen wait by a milch-camel till the foal was born and then hurry off the mother for arrears. And what can I do? I can’t get the court clerks to give me any accounts; I can’t raise anything more than a fat smile from the commander-in-chief when I find out the troops are three months in arrears; and old Timbersides begins to weep when I speak to him. He has taken to the King’s Peg heavily, liqueur brandy for whisky, and Heidsieck for soda-water.’

‘That’s what the Rao of Jubela took to. Even a native can’t last long at that,’ said Spurstow. ‘He’ll go out.’

‘And a good thing, too. Then I suppose we’ll have a council of regency, and a tutor for the young prince, and hand him back his kingdom with ten years’ accumulations.’

‘Whereupon that young prince, having been taught all the vices of the English, will play ducks and drakes with the money and undo ten years’ work in eighteen months. I’ve seen that business before,’ said Spurstow. ‘I should tackle the king with a light hand if I were you, Lowndes. They’ll hate you quite enough under any circumstances.

‘That’s all very well. The man who looks on can talk about the light hand; but you can’t clean a pig-sty with a pen dipped in rose-water. I know my risks; but nothing has happened yet. My servant’s an old Pathan, and he cooks for me. They are hardly likely to bribe him, and I don’t accept food from my true friends, as they call themselves. Oh, but it’s weary work! I’d sooner be with you, Spurstow. There’s shooting near your camp.’

‘Would you? I don’t think it. About fifteen deaths a day don’t incite a man to shoot anything but himself. And the worst of it is that the poor devils look at you as though you ought to save them. Lord knows, I’ve tried everything. My last attempt was empirical, but it pulled an old man through. He was brought to me apparently past hope, and I gave him gin and Worcester sauce with cayenne. It cured him; but I don’t recommend it.’

‘How do the cases run generally?’ said Hummil.

‘Very simply indeed. Chlorodyne, opium pill, chlorodyne, collapse, nitre, bricks to the feet, and then—the burning-ghaut. The last seems to be the only thing that stops the trouble. It’s black cholera, you know. Poor devils! But, I will say, little Bunsee Lal, my apothecary, works like a demon. I’ve recommended him for promotion if he comes through it all alive.’

‘And what are your chances, old man?’ said Mottram.

‘Don’t know; don’t care much; but I’ve sent the letter in. What are you doing with yourself generally?’

‘Sitting under a table in the tent and spitting on the sextant to keep it cool,’ said the man of the survey. ‘Washing my eyes to avoid ophthalmia, which I shall certainly get, and trying to make a sub-surveyor understand that an error of five degrees in an angle isn’t quite so small as it looks. I’m altogether alone, y’ know, and shall be till the end of the hot weather.’

‘Hummil’s the lucky man,’ said Lowndes, flinging himself into a long chair. ‘He has an actual roof-torn as to the ceiling-cloth, but still a roof-over his head. He sees one train daily. He can get beer and soda-water and ice ’em when God is good. He has books, pictures—they were torn from the Graphic—and the society of the excellent sub-contractor Jevins, besides the pleasure of receiving us weekly.’

Hummil smiled grimly. ‘Yes, I’m the lucky man, I suppose. Jevins is luckier.’

‘How? Not——’

‘Yes. Went out. Last Monday.’

‘By his own hand?’ said Spurstow quickly, hinting the suspicion that was in everybody’s mind. There was no cholera near Hummil’s section. Even fever gives a man at least a week’s grace, and sudden death generally implied self-slaughter.

‘I judge no man this weather,’ said Hummil. ‘He had a touch of the sun, I fancy; for last week, after you fellows had left, he came into the verandah and told me that he was going home to see his wife, in Market Street, Liverpool, that evening.

‘I got the apothecary in to look at him, and we tried to make him lie down. After an hour or two he rubbed his eyes and said he believed he had had a fit, hoped he hadn’t said anything rude. Jevins had a great idea of bettering himself socially. He was very like Chucks in his language.’

‘Well?’

‘Then he went to his own bungalow and began cleaning a rifle. He told the servant that he was going to shoot buck in the morning. Naturally he fumbled with the trigger, and shot himself through the head—accidentally. The apothecary sent in a report to my chief; and Jevins is buried somewhere out there. I’d have wired to you, Spurstow, if you could have done anything.’

‘You’re a queer chap,’ said Mottram. ‘If you’d killed the man yourself you couldn’t have been more quiet about the business.’

‘Good Lord! what does it matter?’ said Hummil calmly. ‘I’ve got to do a lot of his overseeing work in addition to my own. I’m the only person that suffers. Jevins is out of it, by pure accident, of course, but out of it. The apothecary was going to write a long screed on suicide. Trust a babu to drivel when he gets the chance.’

‘Why didn’t you let it go in as suicide?’ said Lowndes.

‘No direct proof. A man hasn’t many privileges in his country, but he might at least be allowed to mishandle his own rifle. Besides, some day I may need a man to smother up an accident to myself. Live and let live. Die and let die.’

‘You take a pill,’ said Spurstow, who had been watching Hummil’s white face narrowly. ‘Take a pill, and don’t be an ass. That sort of talk is skittles. Anyhow, suicide is shirking your work. If I were Job ten times over, I should be so interested in what was going to happen next that I’d stay on and watch.’

‘Ah! I’ve lost that curiosity,’ said Hummil.

‘Liver out of order?’ said Lowndes feelingly.

‘No. Can’t sleep. That’s worse.’

‘By Jove, it is!’ said Mottram. ‘I’m that way every now and then, and the fit has to wear itself out. What do you take for it?’

‘Nothing. What’s the use? I haven’t had ten minutes’ sleep since Friday morning.’

‘Poor chap! Spurstow, you ought to attend to this,’ said Mottram. ‘Now you mention it, your eyes are rather gummy and swollen.’

Spurstow, still watching Hummil, laughed lightly. ‘I’ll patch him up, later on. Is it too hot, do you think, to go for a ride?’

‘Where to?’ said Lowndes wearily. ‘We shall have to go away at eight, and there’ll be riding enough for us then. I hate a horse when I have to use him as a necessity. Oh, heavens! what is there to do?’

‘Begin whist again, at chick points [‘a chick’ is supposed to be eight shillings] and a gold mohur on the rub,’ said Spurstow promptly.

‘Poker. A month’s pay all round for the pool—no limit—and fifty-rupee raises. Somebody would be broken before we got up,’ said Lowndes.

‘Can’t say that it would give me any pleasure to break any man in this company,’ said Mottram. ‘There isn’t enough excitement in it, and it’s foolish.’ He crossed over to the worn and battered little camp-piano—wreckage of a married household that had once held the bungalow—and opened the case.

‘It’s used up long ago,’ said Hummil. ‘The servants have picked it to pieces.’

The piano was indeed hopelessly out of order, but Mottram managed to bring the rebellious notes into a sort of agreement, and there rose from the ragged keyboard something that might once have been the ghost of a popular music-hall song. The men in the long chairs turned with evident interest as Mottram banged the more lustily.

‘That’s good!’ said Lowndes. ‘By Jove! the last time I heard that song was in ’79, or thereabouts, just before I came out.’

‘Ah!’ said Spurstow with pride, ‘I was home in ‘80.’ And he mentioned a song of the streets popular at that date.

Mottram executed it roughly. Lowndes criticized and volunteered emendations. Mottram dashed into another ditty, not of the music-hall character, and made as if to rise.

‘Sit down,’ said Hummil. ‘I didn’t know that you had any music in your composition. Go on playing until you can’t think of anything more. I’ll have that piano tuned up before you come again. Play something festive.’

Very simple indeed were the tunes to which Mottram’s art and the limitations of the piano could give effect, but the men listened with pleasure, and in the pauses talked all together of what they had seen or heard when they were last at home. A dense dust-storm sprung up outside, and swept roaring over the house, enveloping it in the choking darkness of midnight, but Mottram continued unheeding, and the crazy tinkle reached the ears of the listeners above the flapping of the tattered ceiling-cloth.

In the silence after the storm he glided from the more directly personal songs of Scotland, half humming them as he played, into the Evening Hymn.

‘Sunday,’ said he, nodding his head.

‘Go on. Don’t apologize for it,’ said Spurstow.

Hummil laughed long and riotously. ‘Play it, by all means. You’re full of surprises today. I didn’t know you had such a gift of finished sarcasm. How does that thing go?’

Mottram took up the tune.

‘Too slow by half. You miss the note of gratitude,’ said Hummil. ‘It ought to go to the “Grasshopper’s Polka”—this way.’ And he chanted, prestissimo,

‘Glory to thee, my God, this night, For all the blessings of the light.

That shows we really feel our blessings. How does it go on?—

If in the night I sleepless lie, My soul with sacred thoughts supply; May no ill dreams disturb my rest,—

Quicker, Mottram!—

Or powers of darkness me molest!’

‘Bah! what an old hypocrite you are!’

‘Don’t be an ass,’ said Lowndes. ‘You are at full liberty to make fun of anything else you like, but leave that hymn alone. It’s associated in my mind with the most sacred recollections——’

‘Summer evenings in the country, stained-glass window, light going out, and you and she jamming your heads together over one hymnbook,’ said Mottram.

‘Yes, and a fat old cockchafer hitting you in the eye when you walked home. Smell of hay, and a moon as big as a bandbox sitting on the top of a haycock; bats, roses, milk and midges,’ said Lowndes.

‘Also mothers. I can just recollect my mother singing me to sleep with that when I was a little chap,’ said Spurstow.

The darkness had fallen on the room. They could hear Hummil squirming in his chair.

‘Consequently,’ said he testily, ‘you sing it when you are seven fathom deep in Hell! It’s an insult to the intelligence of the Deity to pretend we’re anything but tortured rebels.’

‘Take two pills,’ said Spurstow; ‘that’s tortured liver.’

‘The usually placid Hummil is in a vile bad temper. I’m sorry for his coolies tomorrow,’ said Lowndes, as the servants brought in the lights and prepared the table for dinner.

As they were settling into their places about the miserable goat-chops, and the smoked tapioca pudding, Spurstow took occasion to whisper to Mottram, ‘Well done, David!’

‘Look after Saul, then,’ was the reply.

‘What are you two whispering about?’ said Hummil suspiciously.

‘Only saying that you are a damned poor host. This fowl can’t be cut,’ returned Spurstow with a sweet smile. ‘Call this a dinner?’

‘I can’t help it. You don’t expect a banquet, do you?’

Throughout that meal Hummil contrived laboriously to insult directly and pointedly all his guests in succession, and at each insult Spurstow kicked the aggrieved persons under the table; but he dared not exchange a glance of intelligence with either of them. Hummil’s face was white and pinched, while his eyes were unnaturally large. No man dreamed for a moment of resenting his savage personalities, but as soon as the meal was over they made haste to get away.

‘Don’t go. You’re just getting amusing, you fellows. I hope I haven’t said anything that annoyed you. You’re such touchy devils.’ Then, changing the note into one of almost abject entreaty, Hummil added, ‘I say, you surely aren’t going?’

‘In the language of the blessed Jorrocks, where I dines I sleeps,’ said Spurstow. ‘I want to have a look at your coolies tomorrow, if you don’t mind. You can give me a place to lie down in, I suppose?’

The others pleaded the urgency of their several duties next day, and, saddling up, departed together, Hummil begging them to come next Sunday. As they jogged off, Lowndes unbosomed himself to Mottram—

‘. . . And I never felt so like kicking a man at his own table in my life. He said I cheated at whist, and reminded me I was in debt! ’Told you you were as good as a liar to your face! You aren’t half indignant enough over it.’

‘Not I,’ said Mottram. ‘Poor devil! Did you ever know old Hummy behave like that before or within a hundred miles of it?’

‘That’s no excuse. Spurstow was hacking my shin all the time, so I kept a hand on myself. Else I should have—’

‘No, you wouldn’t. You’d have done as Hummy did about Jevins; judge no man this weather. By Jove! the buckle of my bridle is hot in my hand! Trot out a bit, and ‘ware rat-holes.’ Ten minutes’ trotting jerked out of Lowndes one very sage remark when he pulled up, sweating from every pore—

“Good thing Spurstow’s with him tonight.’

‘Ye-es. Good man, Spurstow. Our roads turn here. See you again next Sunday, if the sun doesn’t bowl me over.’

‘S’pose so, unless old Timbersides’ finance minister manages to dress some of my food. Goodnight, and—God bless you!’

‘What’s wrong now?’

‘Oh, nothing.’ Lowndes gathered up his whip, and, as he flicked Mottram’s mare on the flank, added, ‘You’re not a bad little chap, that’s all.’ And the mare bolted half a mile across the sand, on the word.

In the assistant engineer’s bungalow Spurstow and Hummil smoked the pipe of silence together, each narrowly watching the other. The capacity of a bachelor’s establishment is as elastic as its arrangements are simple. A servant cleared away the dining-room table, brought in a couple of rude native bedsteads made of tape strung on a light wood frame, flung a square of cool Calcutta matting over each, set them side by side, pinned two towels to the punkah so that their fringes should just sweep clear of the sleeper’s nose and mouth, and announced that the couches were ready.

The men flung themselves down, ordering the punkah-coolies by all the powers of Hell to pull. Every door and window was shut, for the outside air was that of an oven. The atmosphere within was only 104 degrees, as the thermometer bore witness, and heavy with the foul smell of badly-trimmed kerosene lamps; and this stench, combined with that of native tobacco, baked brick, and dried earth, sends the heart of many a strong man down to his boots, for it is the smell of the Great Indian Empire when she turns herself for six months into a house of torment. Spurstow packed his pillows craftily so that he reclined rather than lay, his head at a safe elevation above his feet. It is not good to sleep on a low pillow in the hot weather if you happen to be of thick-necked build, for you may pass with lively snores and gugglings from natural sleep into the deep slumber of heat-apoplexy.

‘Pack your pillows,’ said the doctor sharply, as he saw Hummil preparing to lie down at full length.

The night-light was trimmed; the shadow of the punkah wavered across the room, and the ‘flick ‘ of the punkah-towel and the soft whine of the rope through the wall-hole followed it. Then the punkah flagged, almost ceased. The sweat poured from Spurstow’s brow. Should he go out and harangue the coolie? It started forward again with a savage jerk, and a pin came out of the towels. When this was replaced, a tomtom in the coolie-lines began to beat with the steady throb of a swollen artery inside some brain-fevered skull. Spurstow turned on his side and swore gently. There was no movement on Hummil’s part. The man had composed himself as rigidly as a corpse, his hands clinched at his sides. The respiration was too hurried for any suspicion of sleep. Spurstow looked at the set face. The jaws were clinched, and there was a pucker round the quivering eyelids.

‘He’s holding himself as tightly as ever he can,’ thought Spurstow. ‘What in the world is the matter with him?—Hummil!’

‘Yes,’ in a thick constrained voice.

‘Can’t you get to sleep?’

‘No.’

‘Head hot? Throat feeling bulgy? or how?’

‘Neither, thanks. I don’t sleep much, you know.’

‘’Feel pretty bad?’

‘Pretty bad, thanks. There is a tomtom outside, isn’t there? I thought it was my head at first…. Oh, Spurstow, for pity’s sake give me something that will put me asleep, sound asleep, if it’s only for six hours!’ He sprang up, trembling from head to foot. ‘I haven’t been able to sleep naturally for days, and I can’t stand it! I can’t stand it!’

‘Poor old chap!’

‘That’s no use. Give me something to make me sleep. I tell you I’m nearly mad. I don’t know what I say half my time. For three weeks I’ve had to think and spell out every word that has come through my lips before I dared say it. Isn’t that enough to drive a man mad? I can’t see things correctly now, and I’ve lost my sense of touch. My skin aches—my skin aches! Make me sleep. Oh, Spurstow, for the love of God make me sleep sound. It isn’t enough merely to let me dream. Let me sleep!’

‘All right, old man, all right. Go slow; you aren’t half as bad as you think.’

The flood-gates of reserve once broken, Hummil was clinging to him like a frightened child. ‘You’re pinching my arm to pieces.’

‘I’ll break your neck if you don’t do something for me. No, I didn’t mean that. Don’t be angry, old fellow.’ He wiped the sweat off himself as he fought to regain composure. ‘I’m a bit restless and off my oats, and perhaps you could recommend some sort of sleeping mixture—bromide of potassium.’

‘Bromide of skittles! Why didn’t you tell me this before? Let go of my arm, and I’ll see if there’s anything in my cigarette-case to suit your complaint.’ Spurstow hunted among his day-clothes, turned up the lamp, opened a little silver cigarette-case, and advanced on the expectant Hummil with the daintiest of fairy squirts.

‘The last appeal of civilization,’ said he, ’and a thing I hate to use. Hold out your arm. Well, your sleeplessness hasn’t ruined your muscle; and what a thick hide it is! Might as well inject a buffalo subcutaneously. Now in a few minutes the morphia will begin working. Lie down and wait.’

A smile of unalloyed and idiotic delight began to creep over Hummil’s face. ‘I think,’ he whispered,—‘I think I’m going off now. Gad! it’s positively heavenly! Spurstow, you must give me that case to keep; you——’ The voice ceased as the head fell back.

‘Not for a good deal,’ said Spurstow to the unconscious form. ‘And now, my friend, sleeplessness of your kind being very apt to relax the moral fibre in little matters of life and death, I’ll just take the liberty of spiking your guns.’

He paddled into Hummil’s saddle-room in his bare feet and uncased a twelve-bore rifle, an express, and a revolver. Of the first he unscrewed the nipples and hid them in the bottom of a saddlery-case; of the second he abstracted the lever, kicking it behind a big wardrobe. The third he merely opened, and knocked the doll-head bolt of the grip up with the heel of a riding-boot.

‘That’s settled,’ he said, as he shook the sweat off his hands. ‘These little precautions will at least give you time to turn. You have too much sympathy with gun-room accidents.’

And as he rose from his knees, the thick muffled voice of Hummil cried in the doorway, ‘You fool!’

Such tones they use who speak in the lucid intervals of delirium to their friends a little before they die.

Spurstow started, dropping the pistol. Hummil stood in the doorway, rocking with helpless laughter.

‘That was awf’ly good of you, I’m sure,’ he said, very slowly, feeling for his words. ‘I don’t intend to go out by my own hand at present. I say, Spurstow, that stuff won’t work. What shall I do? What shall I do?’ And panic terror stood in his eyes.

‘Lie down and give it a chance. Lie down at once.’

‘I daren’t. It will only take me half-way again, and I shan’t be able to get away this time. Do you know it was all I could do to come out just now? Generally I am as quick as lightning; but you had clogged my feet. I was nearly caught.’

‘Oh yes, I understand. Go and lie down.’

‘No, it isn’t delirium; but it was an awfully mean trick to play on me. Do you know I might have died?’

As a sponge rubs a slate clean, so some power unknown to Spurstow had wiped out of Hummil’s face all that stamped it for the face of a man, and he stood at the doorway in the expression of his lost innocence. He had slept back into terrified childhood.

‘Is he going to die on the spot?’ thought Spurstow. Then, aloud, ‘All right, my son. Come back to bed, and tell me all about it. You couldn’t sleep; but what was all the rest of the nonsense?’

‘A place, a place down there,’ said Hummil, with simple sincerity. The drug was acting on him by waves, and he was flung from the fear of a strong man to the fright of a child as his nerves gathered sense or were dulled.

‘Good God! I’ve been afraid of it for months past, Spurstow. It has made every night hell to me; and yet I’m not conscious of having done anything wrong.’

‘Be still, and I’ll give you another dose. We’ll stop your nightmares, you unutterable idiot!’

‘Yes, but you must give me so much that I can’t get away. You must make me quite sleepy, not just a little sleepy. It’s so hard to run then.’

‘I know it; I know it. I’ve felt it myself. The symptoms are exactly as you describe.’

‘Oh, don’t laugh at me, confound you! Before this awful sleeplessness came to me I’ve tried to rest on my elbow and put a spur in the bed to sting me when I fell back. Look!’

‘By Jove! the man has been rowelled like a horse! Ridden by the nightmare with a vengeance! And we all thought him sensible enough. Heaven send us understanding! You like to talk, don’t you?’

‘Yes, sometimes. Not when I’m frightened. Then I want to run. Don’t you?’

‘Always. Before I give you your second dose try to tell me exactly what your trouble is.’

Hummil spoke in broken whispers for nearly ten minutes, whilst Spurstow looked into the pupils of his eyes and passed his hand before them once or twice.

At the end of the narrative the silver cigarette-case was produced, and the last words that Hummil said as he fell back for the second time were, ‘Put me quite to sleep; for if I’m caught I die, I die!’

‘Yes, yes; we all do that sooner or later, thank Heaven who has set a term to our miseries,’ said Spurstow, settling the cushions under the head. ‘It occurs to me that unless I drink something I shall go out before my time. I’ve stopped sweating, and—I wear a seventeen-inch collar.’ He brewed himself scalding hot tea, which is an excellent remedy against heat-apoplexy if you take three or four cups of it in time. Then he watched the sleeper.

‘A blind face that cries and can’t wipe its eyes, a blind face that chases him down corridors! H’m! Decidedly, Hummil ought to go on leave as soon as possible; and, sane or otherwise, he undoubtedly did rowel himself most cruelly. Well, Heaven send us understanding!’

At mid-day Hummil rose, with an evil taste in his mouth, but an unclouded eye and a joyful heart.

‘I was pretty bad last night, wasn’t I?’ said he.

‘I have seen healthier men. You must have had a touch of the sun. Look here: if I write you a swinging medical certificate, will you apply for leave on the spot?’

‘No.’

‘Why not? You want it.’

‘Yes, but I can hold on till the weather’s a little cooler.’

‘Why should you, if you can get relieved on the spot?’

‘Burkett is the only man who could be sent; and he’s a born fool.’

‘Oh, never mind about the line. You aren’t so important as all that. Wire for leave, if necessary.’

Hummil looked very uncomfortable.

‘I can hold on till the Rains,’ he said evasively.

‘You can’t. Wire to headquarters for Burkett.’

‘I won’t. If you want to know why, particularly, Burkett is married, and his wife’s just had a kid, and she’s up at Simla, in the cool, and Burkett has a very nice billet that takes him into Simla from Saturday to Monday. That little woman isn’t at all well. If Burkett was transferred she’d try to follow him. If she left the baby behind she’d fret herself to death. If she came—and Burkett’s one of those selfish little beasts who are always talking about a wife’s place being with her husband—she’d die. It’s murder to bring a woman here just now. Burkett hasn’t the physique of a rat. If he came here he’d go out; and I know she hasn’t any money, and I’m pretty sure she’d go out too. I’m salted in a sort of way, and I’m not married. Wait till the Rains, and then Burkett can get thin down here. It’ll do him heaps of good.’

‘Do you mean to say that you intend to face—what you have faced, till the Rains break?’

‘Oh, it won’t be so bad, now you’ve shown me a way out of it. I can always wire to you. Besides, now I’ve once got into the way of sleeping, it’ll be all right. Anyhow, I shan’t put in for leave. That’s the long and the short of it.’

‘My great Scott! I thought all that sort of thing was dead and done with.’

‘Bosh! You’d do the same yourself. I feel a new man, thanks to that cigarette-case. You’re going over to camp now, aren’t you?’

‘Yes; but I’ll try to look you up every other day, if I can.’

‘I’m not bad enough for that. I don’t want you to bother. Give the coolies gin and ketchup.’

‘Then you feel all right?’

‘Fit to fight for my life, but not to stand out in the sun talking to you. Go along, old man, and bless you!’

Hummil turned on his heel to face the echoing desolation of his bungalow, and the first thing he saw standing in the verandah was the figure of himself. He had met a similar apparition once before, when he was suffering from overwork and the strain of the hot weather.

‘This is bad—already,’ he said, rubbing his eyes. ‘If the thing slides away from me all in one piece, like a ghost, I shall know it is only my eyes and stomach that are out of order. If it walks—my head is going.’

He approached the figure, which naturally kept at an unvarying distance from him, as is the use of all spectres that are born of overwork. It slid through the house and dissolved into swimming specks within the eyeball as soon as it reached the burning light of the garden. Hummil went about his business till even. When he came in to dinner he found himself sitting at the table. The vision rose and walked out hastily. Except that it cast no shadow it was in all respects real.

No living man knows what that week held for Hummil. An increase of the epidemic kept Spurstow in camp among the coolies, and all he could do was to telegraph to Mottram, bidding him go to the bungalow and sleep there. But Mottram was forty miles away from the nearest telegraph, and knew nothing of anything save the needs of the survey till he met, early on Sunday morning, Lowndes and Spurstow heading towards Hummil’s for the weekly gathering.

‘Hope the poor chap’s in a better temper,’ said the former, swinging himself off his horse at the door. ‘I suppose he isn’t up yet.’

‘I’ll just have a look at him,’ said the doctor. ‘If he’s asleep there’s no need to wake him.’

And an instant later, by the tone of Spurstow’s voice calling upon them to enter, the men knew what had happened. There was no need to wake him.

The punkah was still being pulled over the bed, but Hummil had departed this life at least three hours.

The body lay on its back, hands clinched by the side, as Spurstow had seen it lying seven nights previously. In the staring eyes was written terror beyond the expression of any pen.

Mottram, who had entered behind Lowndes, bent over the dead and touched the forehead lightly with his lips. ‘Oh, you lucky, lucky devil!’ he whispered.

But Lowndes had seen the eyes, and withdrew shuddering to the other side of the room.

‘Poor chap! poor old chap! And the last time I met him I was angry. Spurstow, we should have watched him. Has he——?’

Deftly Spurstow continued his investigations, ending by a search round the room.

‘No, he hasn’t,’ he snapped. ‘There’s no trace of anything. Call the servants.’

They came, eight or ten of them, whispering and peering over each other’s shoulders.

‘When did your Sahib go to bed?’ said Spurstow.

‘At eleven or ten, we think,’ said Hummil’s personal servant.

‘He was well then? But how should you know?’

‘He was not ill, as far as our comprehension extended. But he had slept very little for three nights. This I know, because I saw him walking much, and specially in the heart of the night.’

As Spurstow was arranging the sheet, a big straight-necked hunting-spur tumbled on the ground. The doctor groaned. The personal servant peeped at the body.

‘What do you think, Chuma?’ said Spurstow, catching the look on the dark face.

‘Heaven-born, in my poor opinion, this that was my master has descended into the Dark Places, and there has been caught because he was not able to escape with sufficient speed. We have the spur for evidence that he fought with Fear. Thus have I seen men of my race do with thorns when a spell was laid upon them to overtake them in their sleeping hours and they dared not sleep.’

‘Chuma, you’re a mud-head. Go out and prepare seals to be set on the Sahib’s property.’

‘God has made the Heaven-born. God has made me. Who are we, to enquire into the dispensations of God? I will bid the other servants hold aloof while you are reckoning the tale of the Sahib’s property. They are all thieves, and would steal.’

‘As far as I can make out, he died from—oh, anything; stoppage of the heart’s action, heat-apoplexy, or some other visitation,’ said Spurstow to his companions. ‘We must make an inventory of his effects, and so on.’

‘He was scared to death,’ insisted Lowndes. ‘Look at those eyes! For pity’s sake don’t let him be buried with them open!’

‘Whatever it was, he’s clear of all the trouble now,’ said Mottram softly.

Spurstow was peering into the open eyes.

‘Come here,’ said he. ‘Can you see anything there?’

‘I can’t face it!’ whimpered Lowndes. ‘Cover up the face! Is there any fear on earth that can turn a man into that likeness? It’s ghastly. Oh, Spurstow, cover it up!’

‘No fear—on earth,’ said Spurstow. Mottram leaned over his shoulder and looked intently.

‘I see nothing except some grey blurs in the pupil. There can be nothing there, you know.’

‘Even so. Well, let’s think. It’ll take half a day to knock up any sort of coffin; and he must have died at midnight. Lowndes, old man, go out and tell the coolies to break ground next to Jevins’s grave. Mottram, go round the house with Chuma and see that the seals are put on things. Send a couple of men to me here, and I’ll arrange.’

The strong-armed servants when they returned to their own kind told a strange story of the doctor Sahib vainly trying to call their master back to life by magic arts—to wit, the holding of a little green box that clicked to each of the dead man’s eyes, and of a bewildered muttering on the part of the doctor Sahib, who took the little green box away with him.

The resonant hammering of a coffin-lid is no pleasant thing to hear, but those who have experience maintain that much more terrible is the soft swish of the bed-linen, the reeving and unreeving of the bed-tapes, when he who has fallen by the roadside is apparelled for burial, sinking gradually as the tapes are tied over, till the swaddled shape touches the floor and there is no protest against the indignity of hasty disposal.

At the last moment Lowndes was seized with scruples of conscience. ‘Ought you to read the service, from beginning to end?’ said he to Spurstow.

‘I intend to. You’re my senior as a civilian. You can take it if you like.’

‘I didn’t mean that for a moment. I only thought if we could get a chaplain from somewhere, I’m willing to ride anywhere, and give poor Hummil a better chance. That’s all.’

‘Bosh!’ said Spurstow, as he framed his lips to the tremendous words that stand at the head of the burial service.

After breakfast they smoked a pipe in silence to the memory of the dead. Then Spurstow said absently—

‘Tisn’t medical science.’

‘What?’

‘Things in a dead man’s eye.’

‘For goodness’ sake leave that horror alone!’ said Lowndes. ‘I’ve seen a native die of pure fright when a tiger chivied him. I know what killed Hummil.’

‘The deuce you do! I’m going to try to see.’ And the doctor retreated into the bathroom with a Kodak camera. After a few minutes there was the sound of something being hammered to pieces, and he emerged, very white indeed.

‘Have you got a picture?’ said Mottram. ‘What does the thing look like?’

‘It was impossible, of course. You needn’t look, Mottram. I’ve torn up the films. There was nothing there. It was impossible.’

‘That,’ said Lowndes, very distinctly, watching the shaking hand striving to relight the pipe, ‘is a damned lie.’

Mottram laughed uneasily. ‘Spurstow’s right,’ he said. ‘We’re all in such a state now that we’d believe anything. For pity’s sake let’s try to be rational.’

There was no further speech for a long time. The hot wind whistled without, and the dry trees sobbed. Presently the daily train, winking brass, burnished steel, and spouting steam, pulled up panting in the intense glare. ‘We’d better go on that,’ said Spurstow. ‘Go back to work. I’ve written my certificate. We can’t do any more good here, and work’ll keep our wits together. Come on.’

No one moved. It is not pleasant to face railway journeys at mid-day in June. Spurstow gathered up his hat and whip, and, turning in the doorway, said—

‘There may be Heaven—there must be Hell.Meantime, there is our life here. We-ell?’

Neither Mottram nor Lowndes had any answer to the question.


Joseph Rudyard Kipling (30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936) was an English novelist, short-story writer, poet, and journalist. He was born in British India, which inspired much of his work.

Kipling’s works of fiction include the Jungle Book dilogy The Jungle Book, 1894; The Second Jungle Book, 1895), Kim (1901), the Just So Stories (1902) and many short stories, including The Man Who Would Be King (1888). His poems include “Mandalay” (1890), “Gunga Din” (1890), “The Gods of the Copybook Headings” (1919), “The White Man’s Burden” (1899), and “If—” (1910). He is seen as an innovator in the art of the short story. His children’s books are classics; one critic noted “a versatile and luminous narrative gift.”…[Wikipedia]


If you would like to read more of Kipling’s works, check out Rudyard Kipling’s Tales of Horror and Fantasy with an introduction by Neil Gaiman in The Chamber’s Bookshop.

You are invited to The Chamber Magazine’s Remembrance of the Jack the Ripper’s Murder Spree

In the spirit of the horror and true crime genres, over the next several weeks in its blog, The Chamber is remembering the horrific murder spree of the infamous Jack the Ripper during the late summer and early fall of 1888. At 10:00 a.m. (US Central Time) on the anniversary of each of the five “canonical” murders (August 31, September 8, September 30, and November 9) , The Chamber will run a documentary on Jack the Ripper from YouTube along with a few other esoteric tidbits of information. So grab the tea or coffee of you choice and a light breakfast and join us for should be four intense yet fascinating mornings.

Now Taking Submissions for the October 7 Issue!

The Chamber Magazine: Contemporary Dark Fiction and Poetry is now taking submissions for the October 7 issue.

The Chamber is now taking submissions for the October 7 issue. Submissions for the September issue are closed. Halloween-related material is welcome but not required to submit. Please have your submission in before October 1. Be sure to include the genre and/or subgenre of your work in your cover letter along with the word count and a bio of approximately fifty words or less.

Check out the latest in our Bookshop and Gift Shop while you are here.

You are invited to The Chamber Magazine’s Commemoration of the Jack the Ripper’s Murder Spree

In the spirit of the horror and true crime genres, over the next several weeks The Chamber is commemorating the horrific murder spree of the infamous Jack the Ripper during the late summer and early fall of 1888.

In the spirit of the horror and true crime genres, over the next several weeks in its blog, The Chamber is commemorating the horrific murder spree of the infamous Jack the Ripper during the late summer and early fall of 1888. At 10:00 a.m. (US Central Time) on the anniversary of each of the five “canonical” murders (August 31, September 8, September 30, and November 9) , The Chamber will run a documentary on Jack the Ripper from YouTube along with a few other esoteric tidbits of information. So grab the tea or coffee of you choice and a light breakfast and join us for should be four intense yet fascinating mornings.