Cover illustration by Jon Foster.
About the Book:
Since Cherie Priest burst onto the speculative fiction scene, she’s built a huge following through novels that have earned her accolades and the titles “The Queen of Horror” and “The High Priestess of Steampunk” at various times. A nominee for the Nebula, Hugo, and Goodreads Choice Awards and a winner of the Locus Award, Priest is also a master of the short form.
In her first collection of short fiction, Holy Terror: Stories by Cherie Priest, readers will be taken on haunting journeys that showcase Priest’s unparalleled range. In an early story, “The October Devotion,” William Miller’s predicted mid-19th century apocalypse ends up with a girl discovering what might or might not be Lovecraftian salvation in the forest. A soldier brings a dragon home from World War II to east Tennessee in “The Immigrant.” Two stories here take place in Priest’s beloved Clockwork Century universe: “Reluctance,” in which a teen veteran with a war injury lands his dirigible in a town that seems empty, only to end up in a race against time and zombies, and the novella “Clementine,” following the adventures of Maria Isabella Boyd and Captain Croggon Beauregard Hainey. Another novella, The Wreck of the Mary Byrd, weaves the story of a disappearing boat in 1870 in the words of the captain and some of the passengers...as well as an unforgettable villain. And there’s so much more.
Holy Terror also features an introduction from New York Times’ bestselling author Kevin Hearne, extensive notes on each story from Priest, and an exclusive new novelette, “Talking in Circles” that is sure to become a fan favorite. Get ready to hide under the covers, crack this volume open, and take a delicious trip to the dark side.
Table of Contents
- Introduction by Kevin Hearne
- The October Devotion
- The Wreck of the Mary Byrd
- The Immigrant
- Bad Sushi
- The Catastrophe Box
- final repair request (poem)
- Heavy Metal
- The Knoxville Girl
- The Mermaid Aquarium
- Good Night Prison Kings
- Mother Jones and the Nasty Eclipse
- Talking in Circles
From Publishers Weekly (Starred Review):
“Priest is also adept at conjuring cosmic horror while eschewing mustiness, clunky writing, or clichés, as evidenced by ‘The October Devotion’ and ‘Bad Sushi.’ The latter is a standout, with an unusual lead—septuagenarian sushi chef Baku—standing between humanity and disaster. These masterful tales will wow readers.”
The Wreck of the Mary Byrd
I will tell you how it happened.
My name was Christopher Cooper, and I gambled for my money like a good little sinner. The big-stakes games in Texas, and out in California—they kept me very well fed, and dressed in all the imported clothes I could stand.
I was a big man—once a hard-working man with lots of muscles, but I admit in time that it all ran to fat. It took a lot of cash to clothe me.
I liked big jackets with deep pockets, and I liked boots with quiet heels. No sense in announcing yourself everywhere, I always said. Sometimes I wore bolo ties, but I never resorted to cowboy hats like some of the fellows out west. I always preferred to think of myself as a northeastern lad. The bolo was merely a concession to fashion and a conversation piece.
Women seemed to like it. They’d touch it with their pretty-smelling fingers and twist it around their nails, asking me where I got it from. Once upon a time there was a turquoise slide on it—a fine polished stone set in silver. It matched a pocket watch I carried, and I liked to have them together.
The watch was a gift from a married woman who wouldn’t let me keep her. She had it engraved, so I’d always remember why I loved her, and that she’d sent me on my way. She was a cruel little beast. I worshipped the ground she walked on.
Think of me every moment.
If I was very lucky, she might have thought about me once in a blue moon. I didn’t need a reminder, but the watch was too beautiful to discard in some sentimental gesture. It was worth a small fortune. She’d commissioned it from a jewelry maker in San Francisco. He was an Austrian, she said.
In time, the nuisance longing I felt for her faded to a dull pang noticed only on occasion. But I always did love that watch, shining merrily on its matching silver chain. And every time I considered the time, until the day I died, I thought of her.
For six days, Croggon Hainey watched the Rockies scroll beneath the borrowed, nameless dirigible, until finally the last of the jagged ridges and snow-dusted plateaus slipped behind the ship on the far side of Denver. He’d made this run a dozen times before, in fair weather and foul, with contraband cargo and passengers alike; and on this particular trip a tailwind gently urged the ship forward.
But the speed that took him from the Pacific Northwest, over the mountains and down to the flatlands, did not improve the captain’s mood.
At the Andersonville camp there is a great, stinking dread. The Confederates don’t have enough food of their own, so they sure as hell aren’t feeding their prisoners of war; and the prisoners who aren’t wasting away are dying of diseases faster than they can be replaced. Here, the world smells like bloody shit and coal smoke. It reeks of body odor and piss, and sweat. South Georgia is nowhere to live by choice, and nowhere to die by starving.
The remains—the bodies of the ones who finally fell and couldn’t rise again—they lie in naked piles, leather over skeletons as thin as hat racks. They lie in stacks waiting to be put into the ground. They collect in the back buildings because no one is strong enough to dig anymore, not blue nor gray. This does not explain why, at night and sometimes between the watches, the piles are shrinking.
Kilgore Jones wrestled free from the Eldorado and kicked the driver’s door shut. It bounced and swung back open again, so he gave it a shove with his hip. The old car rocked back and forth, creaking in protest, but this time the latch caught and held—mostly for its own good. The “Jolly Roger” was a big car, but its driver was a big man.
It wouldn’t be a real bold stretch to say he was six and a half feet tall, and a good carnival guesser might put his bulk at a quarter ton. Bald of head and fancy of facial hair, he boasted a carpet of impressive brown muttonchops that shone red in the sun, and a pair of mirrored aviator glasses. Everything else he wore was black. If you asked him why, he’d straight-faced tell you it was slimming.
The Knoxville Girl
Willie came home late, wet, and dirty. He let himself inside through the back door by the kitchen, the one without a working lock—not that Alannah advertised it as such—and he tiptoed past the fridge. He jumped when the ice maker hiccupped and rattled. He recovered his fragile cool, and crept past the sink with a faucet that always leaked unless you wiggled the lever just right.
One more obstacle, and he was in the clear: a little dining set with chrome trim and vinyl upholstery. It blocked his route to the hallway. He gripped the back of the nearest seat, and carefully lifted it aside.
He’d been half afraid he’d find his mother sitting there, waiting for him, smoking a menthol from a green-and-white soft pack and tapping her toes against the peeled piece of linoleum that always snagged on the table leg—Alannah just knew it.
Mother Jones and the Nasty Eclipse
Not everything that’s missing was taken, but once it’s gone, it’s gone, ain’t it? There’s nothing to be done about it now. What isn’t dead is burned to the ground. What isn’t mourned is barely remembered.
Forward, then. Since you think you know defeat.
Nothing was easy for me, either, you know. In the beginning, I failed more often than I helped, and I was regularly wrong. I thought there were lines we’d all agreed not to cross. I thought there were rules and maybe there were, but they only applied to us. You learned that one the hard way, didn’t you? Well.
Bless. Your. Heart.
I meant to ask you, before I lose the thread: Did you see the eclipse?
There’s always an eclipse.
There’s always a moment when it goes all dark, and the wind twists coldly through the trees, and you think maybe the sun will never come back again—even though you damn well know better. Now, let me tell you: I’ve seen that eclipse and others, too. They’re all alike. Just two hours in the same day, with a shadow in the middle. That’s all.
You and I, we both know from shadows, don’t we? We’ve gone cold sitting inside them, and we’ve cast them as big as the moon. We have pulled the tides with our will, all while suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
I’ll tell you what I know of outrageous fortune: He’s a son of a bitch.
Talking in Circles
On the nearest corner, the high, swaying streetlights flashed green, yellow, and red…flickering brightly through the drizzle for an audience of very few cars. It wasn’t the rain; there was always rain. It wasn’t the hour; it wasn’t even dark yet. Not completely.
Listen. Every city has a resting heart rate.
Elsa didn’t plan it this way, but she couldn’t complain. Her group, if it ever became a group, would want privacy—and the more she could offer, the better. She needed a bulletproof cone of silence, and even that might not be enough to lure her subjects into the basement of the old Episcopal church.
- Jon Foster
- Cherie Priest
- 617 pages
- eBook Edition