by Bob'n Around
Invisible matters of the mind turned real into the written word.
|'Horror Stories' was the first and iconic American pulp magazine that published tales of the supernatural, horror, and macabre. The original issue was published in January 1935, three years after the weird menace genre had begun with 'Dime Mystery Magazine'.
Harry Warren, grandson of the media mogul, James Warren, famous for 'After Hours, Creepy, Eerie, Famous Monsters of Filmland, Help!, and Vampirella', settled the grizzly decapitated head of Robert Murdoch, on an iron spike. "Looks real, don't it?" he said. "Teach him to try a buyout of my company just to put me out of business."
Junior Warren, his bastard son, added a few dabs of fake looking blood running down the jagged severed neck. "Think he'll take the warning, Pops?"
"I arranged to have him awaken to find the severed head of his prized horse in his bed with him. Think he'll get the nudge?" Harry Warren's twisted smile broke into a strangled huffing sound that for him meant laughter.
"The Godfather movie, 1972. you want to threaten Robert Murdoch with your connections to the mob." Junior had been the one setting up the money laundering scheme with the crime syndicate family he pal'd around with so often. "Maybe you should have asked me if it was O.K. with them, first."
Harry Warren's beetle eyebrows danced on his forehead. "You think I'm stupid? Who do you think that is?"
"Dad. You didn't."
The two men focused their eyes through the main office big plate glass window. The familiar figure of a well known crone stood waving at them from the end of the plant's entrance road.
"Yep. I got to them. Promised the witch everything but murder if she'd get me the goods on Murdoch. Isn't blackmail when all I want is for him to leave us alone." The raspy sawing sound of dried up laughter began again.
"That's Myda Murdoch in the flesh. isn't she dead?" Junior's own form of braying humor began with a forced yuk-yuk.
"Ain't no zombie, son. Go out and let her in before she withers into more of a prune than she is and burns away of sunstroke." Harry Warren flicked invisible printer paper dust off a cuff.
"Looks worse than dead to me. Looks like you summoned her from hell." One arched beetle brow look from his pater sent Junior lurching on a stilted half run towards the office door.
"Won't be the first time a businessman was forced to make a deal with the devil." Harry Warren's eyebrows knit together in satisfaction.
"I told her no pets allowed, but she insisted. Said it was her familiar." Junior's tailor made suit looked a little frayed where Myda Murdoch's black cat clung, claws digging into Junior's flesh.
"Stop blathering. Get her a chair, son, and quit that gasping. Then go tend to your wounds. A little blood won't hurt you, unless it's been cursed." There went the eyebrows again, raised, asking Myda Murdoch a silent question.
"Sign here, sweetie." The voice cracked with age. A flutter of legalese contract papers floated to land on Harry Warren's desk. "Want me to have my cat prick your finger for you? Devil requires these be signed in blood."
Myda Murdoch settled her bones (there wasn't much more to her) in an overstuffed chair. She waved off the offer of bar refreshments. "Brought my own spirits."
Mist rose along with a shriek from the hand sized opened container Myda Murdoch drank from. Smacked lips kissed each other. "Hell's best brewed. Want to give it a try?"
Harry Warren's shudder was the first honest thing he'd done in years. "Don't have a taste for that kind of thing. Let me get a magnifying glass to read the fine print."
"Says here I have to offer up my first born but not until the day I die. That right?" Harry Warren glanced at the back of his son he might be knifing, parading back and forth in the hall.
Myda Murdoch's cackle drowned out the sound of the printing presses outside the office. "Yes. On our part, the devil's and mine, you won't kick the bucket as long as you keep profitable according to our contract. Section XIXXIV."
"Wouldn't want it otherwise." Harry Warren barely glanced at the tiny print at the bottom of the last page.
"Go ahead. Do the honors." An index finger pointed and beckoned towards the black cat.
A slash from a razor tipped claw turned Harry Warren's twisted grin into a snarl equal to that of the Witch's familiar. "Sign here. Your business will be yours for perpetuity as long as you enforce our contracts last clause."
Harry Warren paused, realizing he'd been hasty. A drop of blood dripped onto the last page as he leaned over to read that part of the offer. Smoke and fire hissed where his name was being written on the dotted line.
"What have I done?"
When he glanced up the Witch and her familiar were gone. Only a whiff and a puff of sulphur remained. "You, O.K., dad?" Junior coughed, sneezed, pushing his way through the mist.
"You better get busy. Our lives depend on it. We got to comply with this contract before the next edition of our horror magazines are sent out." The twin black beetle brows on Harry Warren's forehead had turned white.
He shoved the document over for his son to read while he massaged the exploding headache beneath his brow. "Contest prompts for a new horror writing contest? That's not so bad."
Then he got to the tiny print bleeding across the bottom of the last page in red. "The prompts have to be real, not just words. We have to summon the supernatural, unholy worst nightmare monster or other gruesome horror prompt straight from hell for that day's contest."
Harry Warren's headache got worse. "Yes. For starters, we've got to replace that fake head on a spike and replace it with the butchered real thing. That's the prompt for Today's horror contest."
Junior scrambled to get on the phone with his mafia friends for something he knew they could provide. Better someone else's head on a platter than his own.
Getting the day's writing contestants together in the same room to show them the prompt made Junior's stomach feel quesy. He reached over his pop's desk to open the drawer where the Pepto 'Bismal' was kept and prepared to swill down the entire bottle.
He and his dad were going to need a hell of a lot of help to make the publishing contract work. That was proven when Myda's boyfriend, one of the walking dead with a yen for fresh brains, took out the first writing contestant as he entered the Warren board room without knowing what caused the heavy breathing behind the door.
A touch of Junior's magic at making the scene look contrived is what it took to make the day a success. "Sure looked real. What an inspiration for my writing." The contest winner had only had to throw up into a nearby wastebasket once before getting started on her twenty-four hour contest piece of flash fiction.
"How do we get rid of these hellish prompts once they arrive?" Junior was relieved a wooden stake to the heart of the day's Vampire prompt had given them a temporary reprieve.
Harry Warren barely glanced up from counting the column of the latest company profits, "The horror stories have never been better. Every one of our magazines is selling like hotcakes." He'd heard Murdoch was mad with envy.
The ghost from yesterday's prompt appeared near the water cooler, making Junior's sexy executive secretary try jumping out of her well endowed skin. "Dad? I'm going to lose another valuable employee. That Seccubus brought in for Wednesday's prompt plumb wore the heart out of Jane Marko, head of mailing. Had to retire on a medical emergency."
"We'll think of something," Harry Warren sniffed. "We got too. Junior? Where you going? Darn it, told him to not mix pleasure with business."
It took convincing the ghost to go haunt the Seccubus into having a damned affair. The ghost now sex slave would last forever riding under the Seccubus ministrations. The problem was keeping them hold up in the executive closet.
Staff passing by, distracted by the orgy of noise, kept opening the door and joining in. "Ain't worth nothing on the job," Junior lamented to the personnel director, a newly hired werewolf, left over week ago horror prompt.
"Leastwise we don't have to use the mob muscle so much, long as we mind chaining him up when it's a full moon. Really sinks his teeth into his job." Junior had to work overtime to juggle all the eggs in the publishing firm's basket of problems. "Maybe get me a good serial killer to keep these supernatural prompts under control, hire him as a new department head after his day as contest prompt."
The enterprise gained fame with its 'look-a-like monsters' parading around the writer's contest room. The growing number of contestants wanting in made winnowing their numbers down by the prompts interviewing them a new problem to solve.
Myda paused from drinking their spirits from her flask. "Having them sell their souls to the devil was my idea, remember." She saluted Harry Warren, with a weaving drunken hand.
"Basement is filled up with their bodily remains. There's a glut on the market for dog meat. We'll figure something out." Harry's eyebrows fought each other as he winked at Junior. "You're in charge. I'm headed on a round the world vacation tour to rub my success in the face of Murdoch."
"Ya' can't be leaving me with this unholy mess." Junior's eyebrows tried escaping his head at the sight of Myda and her curses chasing after Harry Warren's disappearing behind.