The Friends of Autumn
Autumn. My favorite time of the year. The weather is beginning to cool, there’s a certain earthy scent on the breeze, All Hollow’s Eve is right around the corner… an evocative transformation has begun. I love the crisp, cool change. I love the coloring of the trees. I love the haunting air of the season. I love snuggling up under a soft, warm throw and reading scary stories with the lights down low.
Stephen King, Clive Barker, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe… four brilliant authors with a taste for the macabre. I relish anything they write, especially their short stories. I am a huge fan of the short form. Horror anthologies are among my favorite tomes to read. I adore nightmarish journeys into the shadows, into dark nooks and crannies. The more bloodcurdling, the better.
No modern master does it better than Stephen King, his short The Boogeyman scares me with every reading. I can’t imagine anyone who has read it ever looks at a closet the same way again. Clive Barker’s imagination is a true spectacle. Hellish and surreal, he’s one of the most unique visionaries in the horror pantheon. There’s simply nothing like The Hellbound Heart. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror scares the hell out of me every time I read it. And Poe’s The Raven has the power to send shivers down my spine no matter how often I venture down its lonely path.
These authors are heroes of mine along with Anne Rice, Shirley Jackson, and Whitley Strieber. I’ve always longed to be a storyteller like them; to share my ghostly tales with the world. It’s such an honor to be able to do that.
Most of my stories take place in the fall, certainly The Angels of Autumn does. The days are growing short, the nights linger longer, and the veil between our world and the next is the thinnest. Things have the opportunity to peek through, reach in, maybe even step inside. They influence us, slip unseen by us and raise goosebumps over our bodies. I like to imagine myself as such a phantom, getting a thrill by raising goosebumps or even just shocking someone. There’s nothing quite like watching people read one of your stories for the first time. The look in their eyes, the furrowed brows, the way their jaws hang open. I revel in it all. It’s what every genre storyteller loves; getting a reaction from the audience.
In The Angels of Autumn, the season is just as important as any of the characters. It sets the scene perfectly and I can only hope to have captured even a hint of its true essence in my descriptions. The sensations, the smells, the cyclic familiarity of the coming darkness… they’re all so very important. It’s my favorite time of year after all and Halloween, my favorite holiday. I have an obligation as it were, to the season, to the darkest of all festivals, to all the things that go bump in the night. I have to do them proud. I have to give them readers, readers who not only won’t mind but openly welcome an inexplicable cold breath down the back of their necks.
So when you read The Angels of Autumn, turn the lights down low, open the windows and doors to let in the fragrant fall breeze, be sure to read it out loud to your ghostly guests, and don’t forget to wish them a Happy Halloween for me.
Joshua Skye was born in Jamestown, New York but predominantly grew up in the Texas Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. He is a graduate of K.D. Studio Actor’s Conservatory of the Southwest and has worked on indie/underground films and on stage. He lives in rural Pennsylvania with his partner Ray of sixteen years and their eight year old son, Syrian. His short stories have appeared in anthologies from STARbooks Press, Knightwatch Press, Sirens Call Publications, Rainstorm Press, JMS Books and periodicals such as Blood and Lullabies. He is the author of The Singing Wind, Bareback: A Werewolf’s Tale, along with the forthcoming Midnight Rainbows, and The Grigori.
Kincaid Kingsley returns to the town of his childhood after the death of his twin brother, Xander. Believing the crime to be motivated by hate and prejudice, Kincaid sets out to discover why the police are no longer actively investigating the case and hopefully uncover his brother’s killer in the process.
Things in Wren are not as they seem, however, and the closer that Kincaid gets to an answer, the more danger he encounters. Why are all the townspeople so afraid to share what they know?
As the mystery surrounding Xander’s death unravels, the town becomes increasingly blind to what is actually going on. Can Kincaid discover who killed his brother and save the town from evil?
Tagline: A Profound and Powerful Gay Erotic Thriller
Author: Joshua Skye
Publisher: Pink Pepper Press
Number of Pages: 212 Pages
ISBN-13: 978-0615702100 (Pink Pepper Press)
Release Date: October 19, 2012
Links for Purchase:
The Angels of Autumn Excerpt:
From Chapter Five…
The Lombardi Funeral Home was among the oldest of buildings in Wren, constructed in the late 1800s as both a business and a residence by the Lombardi family, immigrants from Italy, of course.
They conducted the bulk of their unusual profession on the shadowy, beautifully decorated, meticulously maintained first level while the untidy dealings with body preparation were carried out in the basement. The second and third levels were where they actually lived. Kept in the family for well over a hundred years by strict legal clauses in every will and testament down the Lombardi line it was now owned and operated by the widow Mary Anne Lombardi and her only son, Angelo.
Kincaid felt queasy as he looked around the parlor. The furnishings were ancient, most assuredly antiques, perhaps even the original Italian décor, all aglow in the flickering light of electric candles. Aside from what little daylight filtered in through the dark sheers, there were no other light sources. A little bell had announced his arrival several minutes before but he’d yet to be greeted.
There was a musty smell and a pungent chemical odor beneath it. Someone, somewhere deep in the house turned on a hissing record player and after a few scratchy seconds a low, somber sonata began to play over unseen speakers. A curtain parted and a tall shadowy figure emerged. He said, “How may I help?”
Angelo was a handsome man with typically Italian features. He was dressed in a nice, solemn suit and had his hair combed strictly back. His large hazel eyes fell on his guest and there was an audible sound of shock, a sigh and then a deep intake of air. He said, “Kincaid. Wow, I thought you’d never come back to this place especially when you didn’t attend your brother’s funeral. Everyone thought it was pretty scandalous. So, how’s it going?”
Ignoring the crude judgment, Kincaid detected a genuine surprise in Angelo’s voice. He was the same age and had been in many of the very same classes as the Kingsley twins, he’d even been one of the disapproving assholes who had put them through hell. Angelo had been one of the popular kids, one of the over-exulted Wren Dragons, a dumb jock destined to forever mourn his golden high school days. As an adult, Angelo didn’t seem so intimidating anymore. He was just a man in his late twenties, wasting away in the family business, no longer taut, tan and toned, no longer important, no longer a Dragon…the toast of the town. He had a beer belly which alone made Kincaid happy. “I’m okay,” he replied. “How have you been?”
Angelo’s lips quivered when he forced a smile and answered, “Good. Thank you. How’s your mother?”
“As good as can be expected, I guess.”
Angelo said, “Right. Well, how can I help you?” He was stiff, formal. The fingers of his hands were entwined and resting at his waist. He cocked his head to one side, the sympathy in his eyes was counterfeit, a professional automation.
“I wanted to talk to you about my brother’s funeral, actually.” Kincaid found he couldn’t look at Angelo when he said ‘funeral,’ and so he diverted his gaze across the room to nothing in particular. Everything about the place was so old.
Angelo’s voice got deeper and there was a hint of umbrage to it. “I imagine you would. Your mother expressed her disappointment in your brother’s restoration. We’re very sorry she was so displeased. I assure you we pro-rated our fees accordingly.”
Kincaid slowly brought his attention back to his host and said, “Yeah well, do you do the restoration?”
“No. My mother does.” Angelo’s stance changed, he was getting defensive both vocally and physically.
“May I speak with her, please?”
“I’m not here to cause a scene or anything. I just want to talk to her. That’s all, Angelo. I’m not going to berate your mother.”
The Italian man just stood there for several tedious and silent moments assessing the guest’s intentions. Kincaid refused to look away this time no matter how nerve-racking or unsettling the situation slowly became. He wasn’t in high school anymore, he wasn’t the frightened and belittled teenager who shied away from everyone and Angelo wasn’t the pompous cock-of-the-walk anymore. They were adults and far more equal now than Angelo was probably even aware of.
Kincaid prepared himself for a physical altercation. Being picked on mercilessly had prompted him to take quite a few self-defense classes over the years. Angelo might have been able to beat the shit out of him once, long ago, but his glory days were long over. He was out of shape and didn’t have his buddies around to back him up. Kincaid put on a confident little grin and stated, “I said please.
Angelo’s shoulders slouched ever so slightly. He swallowed hard and his eyes turned down as his voice became professional, disengaged. He said, “Of course. If you’ll excuse me I’ll see if she’s available. Please, take a seat.”
“Thank you, Angelo,” Kincaid said lowly.
Angelo nodded and disappeared behind the curtain.
Kincaid turned and meandered into the small, dismal sitting room and over to a stiff, uncomfortable sofa and sat down. A spider crawled over the surface of the weathered coffee table. Not particularly squeamish about such things, Kincaid watched it with a distracting fascination, the way it moved, the legs click, click, clicking along. He frowned as he realized that this spider was malformed. It had nine legs instead of eight and yet the added appendage didn’t seem to impede it in the slightest. He found himself leaning down, close, to get a better view of the little creepy crawly. The spider stopped. Perhaps it was now quite aware of its audience. It was perfectly still, frozen.
“Mr. Kingsley.” The voice was soft.
Kincaid flinched. The spider lurched into motion and scurried over the edge of the table and vanished. Being polite, Kincaid stood and turned his attention to the petite woman standing in the entranceway. She clutched a leather-bound portfolio to her bosom. Her salt and pepper hair was pulled into a tight bun on her head. She had modest make-up on and was dressed in a long, conservative black dress. There was a beautifully crocheted shawl draped over her shoulders perhaps utilized to hide the slight curvature of her upper spine. Kincaid said, “Ms. Lombardi, thank you for seeing me.”
She smiled courtly and entered the room, moved gracefully around the back of the sofa and sat down next to her guest. Kincaid sat down as well. Her eyes were down. He wondered what she was thinking. He imagined she thought he was there to complain. He wanted to reassure her he was not and so he said, “I didn’t come here to…”
Without looking at him, she shoved the portfolio at him. Sheepishly, he accepted it and took a deep breath before opening it. For a moment he expected to see pictures of his dead brother, before and after. It wasn’t something he was even remotely interested in. They were pictures of the dead and indeed they were before and after shots, instamatic snapshots, many of them yellowed with age. The first was an old man whose face had practically been pulled off in some horrible accident. After the restoration he simply appeared as though he were napping. The second was a woman whose forehead had been cleaved open and again the after picture was perfect. On and on the pictures went, each turn of the page revealing flawless transformations.
She said demurely, “My work. As you can see, I am very good at it.”
“It’s immaculate, you’d never know, but my mother said she could…” Kincaid paused as a realization hit him. He turned his eyes away from the Polaroid snapshots in the photo album. The widow Lombardi looked sad and afraid at the same time. His voice was shaky, hesitant. He said, “You did it on purpose.”
Mary Anne nodded and took the album back from him, she closed it and pressed it, embraced it, to her breast. Her eyes moved downward until she stared at the floor and there she focused for a long time, barely breathing, silent and still. She was contemplating something. Kincaid’s mind raced with what those thoughts might be. His heart fluttered nervously. What secret was she about to reveal?