Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Terror Tales...

I'm delighted that my story Shall Not Be will be included in Terror Tales of the Mediterranean, edited by Paul Finch. This latest installment of the acclaimed "Terror Tales" anthology series is set to be released on Halloween from Telos Publishing and can be preordered here:

I started writing the story several years ago, during one of our holidays in Turkey. The messy first draft was hand-written in a notebook while I relaxed in the evenings over a glass of local wine.

The initial spark was the idea of Yabbel's Box, a phrase that appeared in my mind one day and wouldn't leave me alone. For a long time, I'd wanted to set a story in the area of Turkey where we'd stayed for three or four years running, and the story developed smoothly from these two starting points. It's one of my favourites. I hope you like it.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Best Horror of the Year Volume 15


Here's the cover for the forthcoming Best New Horror of the Year Vol. 15, edited by the mighty Ellen Datlow. I'm delighted to be one of the "many others" with my story Lifelike.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

August Update

I've decided I won't get rid of this blog after all. It seems that some people do still read them, which is nice...

Latest news:

I'm currently working on a new novel - an idea I've had in mind for a few years, and that I've described more than once as "Gloria meets The Brood".  It's slow going because these days my writing time is limited, but I'm enjoying the process.

Soon I'll have some exciting news to share. Film news, actually. I can't say much more at this stage, but as soon as I'm able, I'll spill the beans and let everyone know what's happening.

Recently, I've sold stories to a forthcoming anthology from PS Publishing and Terror Tales of the Mediterranean (the latest of Paul Finch's excellent themed horror anthologies). Two good paying markets, and working with great editors and people I like.

Thursday, July 20, 2023


This blog has become a window through which nobody looks. A dirty, grease-smeared pane, neglected and left to become opaque.

I don't think people read blogs anymore. They inhabit other, more dynamic social media sites. Blogs are now a thing of the past - a sad relic, a shabby ghost.

Perhaps, like other ancient artefacts, this one should be buried and forgotten.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

White Rabbit Story: January


The Beetle and the Stones

It had been a hard day: dull meetings with clients and contractors, reams of paperwork; a long afternoon spent debating the pros and cons of switching the current IT support contract to a new company. Paul was tired. All he wanted was a large whisky, a small sandwich, and a long film in the Blu-ray player.

            He parked the car, traipsed along the drive, unlocked the door to his house, and almost collapsed into the cramped hallway. Hung his coat on the hook, ran a hand through his greasy hair, and headed into the small living room.

            Something was different. Something was wrong. He didn’t fully correlate the information at first, but then his brain caught up with the situation and he registered it.

            “Oh,” he said.

            There was a huge black beetle sitting on the sofa. It had six legs; two of them were propped up on the coffee table. Its shiny antennae twitched.

            “Oh,” he said again.

            The beetle just sat there, its black compound eyes catching the light and glittering like jewels.

            It didn’t look like any insect he’d ever seen before. Apart from its sheer size, the thing didn’t resemble anything he’d seen on television or photographs. It was more like someone’s idea of a beetle than an actual beetle: clearly an invertebrate, three pairs of segmented legs, a three-part body (head, thorax, abdomen), a set of mandibles, a pair of antennae, and those strange, dead compound eyes. As it shifted on the sofa, he saw that it also possessed folded chitin wing cases but no wings.

            “Hello,” said the beetle, taking him off-guard.


            “I’m sorry for the intrusion.” It had a nice voice: soft, well spoken, middle-class English but of an indeterminate gender. “I seem to have found myself stuck here for a little while, but I’m not sure why.”

            Paul cleared his throat. “Is this a dream? I mean, am I asleep?”

            “No,” the beetle waved one of its forelegs. “I thought the same at first, but this is real. I’m real. I suppose that means you are too. But, if you don’t mind me saying, you’re awfully small.”

            “And you’re awfully large.” Paul blinked a few times, then became very aware that he was blinking, and began to feel self-conscious about it; but he found that he couldn’t stop blinking, no matter how hard he tried.

            “You blink a lot,” said the beetle.

            “I’m sorry,” said Paul. “I’m not sure why I’m doing that. Nervous, I guess.”

            A thought struck him: “Just to backtrack a little…do insects dream?”

            “Good question. I’m not sure. I suppose we must, mustn’t we? I mean, if I thought this was a dream initially, dreaming must be something I do.”

            The beetle’s jaw twitched; its mouth shifted. “That’s a smile,” it said. “Just to be clear.”

            “To be clear?”

            “Yes, clear. I’d hate for you to be afraid. To think I was going to…eat you, or something.”

            “Eat me?” said Paul.

            “Eat you,” said the beetle. “I’d never do that.”

            “I need a drink.” Paul moved slowly to the cabinet where he kept the whisky, took out a bottle and a glass, and poured a hefty shot of double malt. He downed the drink in one and then poured another.

            “Would you like one?” he said without turning around.

            “No thanks,” said the beetle. “I’m teetotal. At least, I think I am.”

            Paul fought the urge to laugh. If he started, he might never be able to stop.

            “I hope I won’t be here long,” said the beetle. “I think I’m waiting for someone.”

            Paul turned, sipped his whisky, and tried not to stare too hard at his unwelcome visitor. “Any idea how long? I mean, will you be leaving soon? I find you…I find your presence…well, unnerving.”

            “I know. I’m sorry. One minute, there I was scuttling about on a rubbish tip eating rotten fruit, and then – bang! – all of a sudden, I’m here. In your home. I have no idea what’s going on.”

            “I see,” said Paul, not seeing at all. “So, you could be here for quite some time?”

            “I suppose,” said the beetle. “There’s no way of knowing, not really. Until whoever it is I think I’m waiting for turns up.”

            Paul set down his glass on the window sill and looked out into the front garden. “Waiting…there’s a thing.”

            “Indeed,” said the beetle. “I feel like I’m waiting, so I must be.”

            “Okay. Wait here,” said Paul. “I have something to show you.”

            The beetle did not respond.

            Paul went through into the kitchen, opened the back door, and walked out into the little back garden he’d been trying to get into shape since last summer. He grabbed the wheelbarrow and pushed it to where he’d demolished the old stone shed. Rolling up his sleeves, he set to work picking up rocks from the rubble pile. It didn’t take him long to fill the wheelbarrow; in a matter of minutes it was piled high with rocks of assorted shapes and sizes.

            Straining, he hefted the weight and pushed the wheelbarrow into the house, through the kitchen, and into the living room.

            “What do you have there?” said the beetle, crossing its lower legs. They made a whispering sound. Paul thought it was creepy.

            “You’ll see,” said Paul, bending to pick up a rock, a nice heavy one with sharp edges.

            “Oh,” said the beetle, just before the first of the jagged projectiles hit and cracked its shell.

            “No,” it said, folding its limbs and trying to curl up into a ball on the sofa.

            The beetle didn’t say anything more, not in terms of actual words, but it did make a lot of high-pitched squeaking sounds. Then there was squelching. After a while, the beetle went quiet and still.

            When he was done, Paul was sweating. His arms ached. There was a pile of yellowy mush on the sofa that was beginning to stink. There were crisp black pieces of shell mixed in with the pungent gunge. He backed away, as if suddenly realising what he had done and what it might mean about him that he’d gone to such extremes. He went to the cabinet and poured another drink. It tasted odd. Something had changed.

            There was a noise from upstairs: a kind of slithering sound from the master bedroom followed by a series of short bumping noises that came to a halt at the top of the stairs. He put down his drink and went out into the hallway, stood at the bottom of the stairs. He was blinking again. He couldn’t stop blinking.

            A smaller beetle was standing on the top step, looking down. This one was roughly half the size of the one he’d just killed, but resembled it in every other way. Its mandibles slid sideways as it spoke:

            “Mummy,” said the beetle. “Where’s my mummy?”

            Paul turned away in disgust. He walked through the living room, not even glancing at the wheelbarrow; moving quickly past the soft wreckage on the sofa, and stumbling into the kitchen. He sat down on the floor and put his head in his hands. Still blinking.

He wasn’t sure if he was going to laugh or cry until the tears came. Then the sobs; long, wet and heaving. He sat like that for a very long time, weeping uncontrollably, like a lost child.

Then something touched him softly on the arm and sat down next to him. It moved in close, hugging him with its jointed limbs and chittering to him mournfully in a language that he knew he might eventually come to understand.




© Gary McMahon, 2022

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

White Rabbit Story: December

This Winter Heart

Snow falling like a thick white duvet, tucking-in the world before it goes to sleep.

We sneak out of the house in the dark, as quiet as mice. Jane is cold but I’m wrapped up warm and snug. My sister never goes anywhere unless she’s under-dressed or wearing the wrong kind of shoes for the weather.

               We vault the low fence at the edge of our parents’ property, cross the open field, and scramble down the side of the snow-banked ravine, where we find him huddled against the trunk of a dead tree.

               A carrot as a nose. Two pieces of coal for eyes. A battered bowler hat perched on his big old snowball head. One of father’s old pipes stuck into his face where a mouth might be. A thin red scarf wrapped around his non-existent neck. We built him seven years ago, when I was four and Jane was five. He has returned here every year since, whenever the annual snowfall begins. We never question his presence, just accept it as part of the grand mystery of life.

               Jane is grinning. Her breath turns powdery and white in the air in front of her face.


-        Let’s leave him this time.


-        But we always destroy him. To see if he comes back next year.


-        Not this time.


-        But why?


-        Just to see what happens.


I’m not convinced but I’ve always kowtowed to my sister’s demands. She’s a year older and a lifetime wiser than me. It’s the natural order that she takes the lead and I follow; it has never occurred to me to ever question the chain of command.

So we leave him there, in the snow, in the shallow dip in the earth, and we go back home to bed. Jane glances back at me as she walks along the hallway to her bedroom, her eyes wide and excited in her cold white face. She smiles at me but I don’t smile back. She’s spoilt my fun; she has taken from me the joy of destruction.

My dreams are uneasy but by morning they are forgotten; vanished like melted snow. Sunshine streams through the windows. A cold white glare outside. When I hear my mother’s screams, I run straight to Jane’s room.

The open door. Mother and father weeping by the wardrobe. They look soft and empty, like deflating rubber dolls. A soft haze hangs in the air. The smell of damp is lodged in my nostrils; the slightly metallic taste of water on my tongue.

On the bed, a large mound of snow lies in state: a person-shaped drift on top of the soaked mattress. Twisted carrot nose. A couple of black coal eyes. A crumpled bowler hat, its brim creased and bent. Pipe crudely set at an angle. The scarf, red as blood against all the mute, dead white of her absence.

I walk to the window and look out at the snow, wishing that I could see her there, dancing through the drifts in her thin dress and her inappropriate shoes.

I still look for her every year, hoping that she will come back. But neither of them does – not her or the snow effigy we once created. Nobody comes; nothing happens. Just the snow and the cold and the wind gusting through the empty chambers of this frozen winter heart.




© Gary McMahon, 2022

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

White Rabbit Story: November


This is Where I Live


 I’d not lived in this neighbourhood for long, just a few weeks, so I decided one fine Sunday morning to take a walk and familiarise myself with the local street layout. It was early. Not many people were out and about. My neighbours were possibly enjoying a lie-in, or having a nice family breakfast.

               It all looked the same: identikit houses with identical lawns and gardens, variations on the same family car parked on the mostly block-paved drives. The sun was a tiny disc in a big, clear sky, shedding plenty of light but not much heat. There were hardly any clouds. The sound of birdsong. The smells of petrol and cooking fat. Just a normal suburban street.

               “Hi,” said a quiet, amiable voice behind me.

Turning, I flashed what I thought was a friendly smile. “Hello.”

There was a small boy sitting on the kerb at the side of the road. He was wearing a curiously dusty school uniform with frayed cuffs and several small rips in the material of the blazer. The trousers were too short for his stumpy legs. He was not wearing any shoes but his feet were white and clean, even the soles.

When he smiled, I finally realised what disturbed me so much about his appearance. The child had the face and head of a fully-grown adult. This caused in me an odd, discombobulated effect: he resembled some weird disproportional puppet there on the path, and I was entirely unsure how to react.

“I’m Ben,” he said, still smiling. In fact, I could hardly see his mouth moving because of the expansive grin.

“Oh…” I didn’t know what else to say.

“My father’s over there.” His choice of the word “father” rather than “dad” seemed deliberate somehow but I wasn’t certain what it implied. In a jerky, restrained motion, he lifted a narrow hand and pointed in the direction of the nearest unremarkable house. He did not turn his head; I had the impression that he couldn’t. His neck was completely immobile, his shoulders stiff.

A tall, broad-shouldered man was mowing the lawn with an old-fashioned rotary mower. He was wearing a pair of cut-off denim shorts that looked to be a size too small and no shirt. His torso was lean and hard; even at this distance, I could make out his straining muscles. The man’s head was too small for his body. It was, in fact, the head of a child.

I glanced at Ben. His horrible empty smile. His male pattern baldness. The five o’clock shadow on his cheeks. Then I looked back at his father, and the contrast of the man’s cherubic, grimacing features was vaguely horrific.

Stumbling backwards. I raised my hands in a ridiculous defensive gesture. I almost tripped and fell as I inched away from the boy at the kerb.

“Why don’t you join us for brunch?” said Ben, cordially, starting to stand but losing his balance slightly because of the weight of his oversized head on his little body. He tried again, supporting himself with an outstretched arm.

I turned and ran; sprinting all the way back to my unsecure home, where the locks now seemed so flimsy and the glass in the windows looked too brittle to offer any form of protection from the outside world. Where I locked the door and squatted down on the floor, out of anyone’s eye-line.

I waited, hoping that I would not hear slow footsteps walking calmly up the drive, or the sound of a polite knock on the front door.

I waited, knowing that I could do nothing to change this.

I live here now. There is nowhere else for me to go.


                                                           © Gary McMahon, 2022