The Essential Lucas Mangum: Into Beyond, 1

Hi folks, I’m Lucas Mangum. I’m an author of dark fiction with several books published by independent presses. At this stage in my life, I’ve noticed my work has a variety of recognizable themes and motifs. With some heavy revisions, putting them together could almost form a sort of meta-narrative. Now, I’m not deluded: I don’t think I’ve originated archetypes or motifs, though I do believe I’ve made them my own. While listening to an episode of the Weird Studies podcast in which they covered the Sun Ra film Space is the Place, I thought it’d be fun to pull out essential passages that best represented this overarching narrative.

I kicked things off with an excerpt from FLESH AND FIRE, originally published in 2016. You can read that post right here or you can get the book in its entirety for FREE (that’s right, FREE) by subscribing to my store’s newsletter.

This week, I want to talk about the world beyond. By this, I don’t necessarily mean the afterlife. I’m fascinated by alternate realities, alternate timelines, worlds layered upon ours, some only slightly different, others vastly different. The concept of infinite dimensions makes the hardships of the here and now easier to digest. I may not have something I want in this world, but another version of me in another place I’ll never visit may have that thing, so in some distant way, I have everything I could ever want or need. Do I believe this absolutely? I don’t know. I think that’s the only honest answer.

As a horror writer, it’s my job to explore the darker side of this. What horrors await us in these infinite other worlds? How can events in other dimensions negatively impact our day-to-day lives?

In my novella MANIA, a controversial independent filmmaker who chooses a supposedly cursed screenplay as his next project. Everyone who has tried filming it has either died or lost their sanity. Despite the book’s short length (30,000ish words), it has some more layers and goes in, what I think, are some interesting directions. A Hollywood cult created the screenplay and orchestrates other sinister events in an ethereal place they call Behind the Scenes.

The excerpt that follows is from late in the book. The main character’s girlfriend has been captured by the cult and he’s been framed for the deaths surrounding the screenplay. A visit by the ghost takes him to the tangential place he needs to go.


Ward woke coughing blood. He spat out a wad of congealed crimson. His ribs and face throbbed in all the places they hit him. At least he knew he was still alive. Marielle never showed.

His first attempt at getting to his feet ended with him collapsing back to the floor. He wondered just how badly he was hurt. Could these injuries kill him? He tried again, using the couch for support. He groaned as the pain spread across his body.

He wondered as he sat in the dark if now, in this moment, that businessman and the others were killing Rachel. How badly would she break down? Would she cry out to him? Or God?

He didn’t want her to suffer, but knew she would.

The futility of any action he could take pressed down upon him, made him cry in the dark. It crushed his will to live.

He cursed and pounded the ground of the apartment. Fresh pain bloomed in his hand and warm blood drizzled from his knuckles. He examined his wounds with morbid fascination. Poked at the scrapes on his hand, flexed his fingers and caused more blood to pour. The outward pain dulled the inward despair.

He slammed his fist into the ground again. This time he grunted against it. He thought he broke a finger. He thought about pain as a doorway, about weakness leaving the body.

Back when he suffered from depression, he once cut himself too deep and had to go to the hospital. Rachel went with him and took him home after the doctors cleared him. She held him, made him promise that he wouldn’t give up, said she loved him and didn’t want to lose him. Remembering this now brought another rush of tears. She hadn’t given up on him, so how could he give up on her now?

He thought of Marielle sparing him in the fire. He shook his head. If she cared about him, why did she kill Jay? He remembered the screenplay and who she was before she became a monster. She was alone, desperate, and afraid, like he was now. She was turned into a monster, but maybe pieces of her old self still remained.

He was never a praying man. Religion had no place in his family. Even his grandparents had a greater interest in the arts than in religion. Now, he imagined himself as a devout man who still cried out to God, even after God killed his loved ones or gave him a crippling disease. Marielle killed his friends and set these dark events in motion. But maybe she could help. He called her before, by working on the film. Perhaps she’d hear his call again.

“Marielle.” He kept his voice at a whisper as he repeated her name.

Ward pressed his fists into his forehead. He shut his eyes. He called to her again and again, tried to picture her.

Panic rose within him as time passed. He thought of Ashton Smith, the doomed director who previously tried to bring Mania to the screen. Ashton went crazy calling for her. Ward wondered if his circumstances were the same.

“Marielle, please, I need your help Goddamn it.”

He rose to his feet, dull aches pounding his ribs. “Please, don’t let them hurt Rachel.”

Ward turned to find her with him. He opened his mouth to scream, but her kiss swallowed it whole.


Instead of the life draining from him, energy poured into him. The pain from his wounds became sources of strength. Redness filled his vision, as if blood poured down the lenses of his eyes. The throb of his heart grew stronger with every beat, pumped fire through his veins.

Marielle pulled her lips from his, pulling him from one dream to another. The first was raw sensation, elevated to its absolute peak. In this new dream, his perceptions changed yet again. His flesh tingled. His pain dulled. An iron gate rippled like a reflection in water.

They were in front of Mr. Whale’s mansion. Ward had a gun in his hand.

“How did we…?”

“Just follow me,” she said.

Her body oozed through the bars, and reformed as flesh on the other side. He stared.

“Come on,” she said.

“You killed all of my friends. You tried to kill me.”

“It was the curse. I couldn’t stop it.”

“Why help me now?”

“They want to replace me. I won’t allow them.”

“And after we’ve stopped them, what then? You go back to trying to kill me? Trying to kill Rachel?”

Her eyes darkened. “I don’t know the future. But right now you need my help.”

He nodded and stepped forward, through the iron. It felt like something reached inside him and massaged his organs. No pain in it.

He followed Marielle up the cobblestone path. The gargoyles turned their heads to watch the intruders, eyes glowing red, mouths twisted into jagged-toothed grimaces. What was once stone was now reptilian skin, the verdant scales glistening as if slimy.

“What did you do to me?”

“I’ve taken you to the temple like you’ve asked.”

“I mean what’s happening to me?”

“All they do takes place Behind the Scenes.”

“Behind the scenes of what?”

“Of the world you know.”

Fascination trumped all fear. As a child, he always liked to watch behind the scenes documentaries telling the stories of how his favorite films were made. A peek Behind the Scenes of the world eclipsed anything he experienced before.

Beneath his feet, the cobblestone cracked and heaved as if something below was breathing. The clouds above swirled, black in color and set against a fiery red sky. The mansion on the hill had transformed. No longer a piece of Gothic architecture, it split and twisted into something out of a German Expressionist nightmare, all zigzags, bends and spirals.

He wondered if he’d followed Marielle into Hell. If so, what waited for him here?


They entered the mansion. Red cracks split the walls of the hallway leading from the front door. Light pulsed from them, making fiery haloes in the darkness. The floor shifted and groaned beneath Ward, as if the house stood on unstable ground, or that long prophesied earthquake had finally struck Los Angeles. Ward held out his arms to keep his balance.

“What now?” he said.

“Go to the room where my story was given to you.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going with you. My congregation must pay for their apostasy.”

They entered Mr. Whale’s crypt of the cinematic dead. Through his new perception, the room had taken on a macabre quality. Theda Bara’s eyes in the poster for Salome bled thick black bile down her cheeks. The walls had turned flesh-colored and expanded like a pregnant belly, the life inside rolling and writhing. Torn pages from books and screenplays fluttered through the air like shreds of confetti, the words upon them written in blood-red calligraphy. Actors and actresses on the covers of DVDs and VHSs spoke garbled gibberish through shredded, oozing lips. A fecal smell choked the air.

Marielle walked to the Salome poster and tore it down, exposing a vertical slit in the wall. She pressed her hands on either side, pressed her face forward. She licked its edges, rubbed her face against it, kissed it. It expanded, leaking clear mucus. She continued to lick, massaged the sides of it with her hands. Flaps of skin grew out along the edges of the slit, embraced Marielle’s head and shoulders.

The slit parted and Marielle dove between its lips. A throaty moan reverberated in the air of the room. As Marielle disappeared inside, her faint voice called to him. He went up to the crevice, held his breath, and attempted to crawl inside.

It resisted, tightening around the edges. He looked the wet hole up and down, recalled how Marielle had gotten through. He bent forward and ran his tongue along its edges. The discharge had the consistency of honey and tasted like white wine. Its fragrance overpowered the fecal stench in the room as the lips opened wider, the flaps of skin again protruding to wrap around Ward’s head. He crawled into the sweet darkness.

The slick walls pressed against him, encircled him with incredible warmth as he inched forward. Blinded by darkness, he moved by feel. Some parts of the passage constricted and he struggled to get through them. In others he could almost stand and walk.

The channel grew wider and spilled out into a dark chamber lit by a single blue orb suspended in the air. Across the room, Rachel hung from a cross.


 

MANIA is available on Amazon.

 

The Mondays

Yesterday, my throat started feeling dry and scratchy. This morning, the symptom has only gotten worse. Plus, I’m achy and very tired. I thought getting a flu shot was supposed to prevent this type of crap.

Oh, well. Maybe it’s allergies again.

I saw my psychiatrist today. I told her lately I’ve experienced drops in my mood. She doubled the dosage of one of my medications. She said it may make me more anxious and irritable, but at least I’ve got another medication that can counteract that. Mental illness is a lot of things. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how many moving parts contribute to your well-being.

Some of these parts aren’t at all related to taking a controlled substance. Stuff like getting to feed a can of Fancy Feast to a neighborhood stray. Spending my weekend with my wife and son. Reading a good book. Finishing projects.

The stray’s name is Snowflake, and I’ve long-suspected she wasn’t being fed. The way she scarfed that can of Fancy Feast, I’m inclined to think my suspicions weren’t far off. It’s nice to feel needed by an animal again. I mean, sure I’ve got the fish, but I dunno, it’s just not the same.

Anyway, I went out with people from work for the first time this past Friday. It was a good night out. I managed to pace myself with booze, which can sometimes be a challenge. The highlight was showing up in costume, because I wrongly believed the gathering was a costume party. Luckily, the costume was easy to take off. I’m glad I didn’t show up covered in fake blood.

It dawned on me the other day that I just might finish all the projects I started this year. Next month, I plan to do a full rewrite of Skull Forest for National Novel Writing Month. I also plan to knock out a top secret screenplay project AND finish Island of Teeth. I think I can really do this, gang!

I’ll even have the revised, finished version of Blood and Brimstone up on my Patreon in the coming weeks. It’s been pretty hopping over there anyway with flash fiction and writing advice essays posted a few times a week. Now, know it’s not sexy asking people for money, but book sales can be really volatile. Having a Patreon helps me have a more reliable income stream. I hope you’ll join me. You’ll be glad you did. Not only will you help me pay some bills, you’ll also get access to exclusive content. Once Blood and Brimstone wraps, I’ve got another serial novella ready to go called I Was a Teenage Cult Leader. Unlike Blood and Brimstone, which becomes publicly available a week after each entry is posted, IWATCL will be exclusive to Patreon for at least a year.

Anyway, that’s my sales pitch. A final note on finishing things: I’m not counting my collaboration with Ryan Harding as something I’ll finish this year. We want to take our time and enjoy the process as much as possible. I’m also not counting Girl on the Borderland, which only has its first chapter written so far. I’m only counting stuff I’ve been deep into over the last ten months.

See you next time, loves.


Currently reading: Fear Street Cheerleaders: The First Evil by R.L. Stine

Just watched: Incident in a Ghostland

Must-Read Books for Halloween

As is tradition, I’ve spent a good deal of this month watching horror movies. I’ve included old favorites as well as some I haven’t seen before. Last night, I showed C.H.U.D. to my neighbor. I think he liked it. I remembered how truly great it is. There’s more humanity in it than a hundred Ari Aster movies, but I digress. A newer standout is the Barker-esque Beezelbuth. It’s a lot of fun, and pretty gory. I also got the chance to watch some Hammer movies I missed as a child like Twins of Evil, Vampire Circus and Hands of the Ripper. I didn’t get to do a horror movie a day, but I did watch a lot more than I have in previous Octobers.

But this isn’t a post about movies. Instead, I’d like to talk about some great reads to get you through this final week of October. I’ve read lots of fun stuff this year alone, but you’ll find some classics here as well.

A final note, this list isn’t in any particular order. Everything listed here is awesome!

1. Kill for Satan! by Bryan Smith: “On the night before Halloween, a Satanic mass is held deep in the woods outside a small American town. Followers of the dark faith are assigned a mission in a message delivered by the devil himself. On Halloween, they must deliver a bounty of pure souls to their dark master. By killing virgins. As Halloween begins, so does the all-day horror movie marathon hosted by Count Victor von Gravemore on Channel 39. Many will be watching as real horror invades their lives and screams ring out all over town.”

Now, if that doesn’t get you excited for Halloween, or this fantastic book, I don’t know what will!

2. Halloween Fiend by C.V. Hunt: ” Strang isn’t the small, quaint town it appears to be. It’s haunted every night by a creature the townsfolk refer to as Halloween. Once the sun sets each day, Halloween emerges to collect its treats: a small, live offering from each household. The residents comply because no one wants to be the target of Halloween’s tricks. But the nightmare of residing in Strang is nothing compared to the yearly ritual Halloween demands of the citizens on All Hallows’ Eve.”

I love the mythology behind this book. Hunt does a great job giving the reader a fully-realized world in this very quick read.

3. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz and Illustrated by Stephen Gammell: “This spooky addition to Alvin Schwartz’s popular books on American folklore is filled with tales of eerie horror and dark revenge that will make you jump with fright. There is a story here for everyone—skeletons with torn and tangled flesh who roam the earth; a ghost who takes revenge on her murderer; and a haunted house where every night a bloody head falls down the chimney. Stephen Gammell’s splendidly creepy drawings perfectly capture the mood of more than two dozen scary stories—and even scary songs—all just right for reading alone or for telling aloud in the dark.”

Yeah, the movie’s great, but this collection is fantastic. The macabre illustrations alone are worth the price.

4. The October Country by Ray Bradbury: “Ray Bradbury’s second short story collection is back in print, its chilling encounters with funhouse mirrors, parasitic accident-watchers, and strange poker chips intact. Both sides of Bradbury’s vaunted childhood nostalgia are also on display, in the celebratory “Uncle Einar,” and haunting “The Lake,” the latter a fine elegy to childhood loss.”

This collection changed everything for me. It reintroduced me to the power of prose after half a decade spent writing only brooding song lyrics. “The Next in Line,” in particular, is probably my favorite.

5. Come Closer by Sara Gran: “If everything in Amanda’s life is so perfect, then why the mood swings, the obscene thoughts, the urge to harm the people she loves? What are those tapping sounds in the walls? And who’s that woman following her? The mystery behind what’s happening to Amanda in Come Closer is so frightening that it ‘ought to carry a warning to…readers.'”

Hands-down, Come Closer is the scariest novel I’ve ever read. I’ve been saying this for a decade now. This year, mostly thanks to book reviewer Sadie Hartmann, this book has seen a resurgence. It’s not centered around Halloween or October like some of the books on this list, and it’s not playful with its horror like Schwartz’s collection of folklore retellings, but it’s kept me up nights. Sometimes it still does.


Anyway, that’s my list of great books to read around this time of year. What are some of your favorites?


P.S. If you enjoyed this blog, feel free to check out my books, a lot of which are free this week. You can also back me on Patreon for exclusive content posted every other day.

Free E-Books

Hi, gang! I just wanted to let everyone know my Richard Laymon tribute story Cruel Summer, my dark thriller Long Night at Jade’s Diner, and my cursed screenplay novella Mania are all FREE on Kindle this week.

Call it a Halloween present.


In other news, it’s Monday and I’m tired. My brother-in-law makes very good, but very strong margaritas. Nonetheless, I’ve got words to write and customers to assist.

On the agenda, I want to get at least another 5,000 words on Pandemonium before I kick it back to Ryan, and I need to do revisions on a top-secret film project (more on that when I can talk about it).

In the background, I’ll have Cannibal Terror on. Halloween’s almost here, gang, and I can’t be more excited.

Blood and Brimstone, Chapter 14 – Free Serial Novel

The Devil was waiting for Windom in the clearing beside the highway, some twelve miles outside of the Tennessee town of Yester Castle. In the blue-gray dusk, the magma bubbling under the Devil’s cracked skin glowed hot and bright, but it was the stink of meat hanging from his cape that drew Windom’s attention.

Windom turned off the highway and met the Devil thirteen paces into the field. The Devil’s lips spread. Windom couldn’t quite call the expression a grin.

“Windom,” the Devil said, voice distorted like wasps lived in his voice box, “I see you’ve once again emerged victorious. When will they learn?”

“When they’re all dead, I reckon.”

“And I reckon there will always be others. Men such as yourself are too dangerous to be kept alive and anyone on earth who meets you learns that all too quickly.”

“I find out who keeps putting out these hits, could take him out and just hide for a while, catch a breather.”

“I’ve never seen you as the type to want to catch a breather.”

“All this running and killing gets old, all I’m saying.”

The not quite smile of the Devil widened. Eyes narrowed into slits. A gnarled claw rose from beneath the cape, stroked his chin. Gave the illusion of considering something, but Windom guessed Old Meat and Magma had already made up his mind about whatever was on his mind.

“Perhaps a side job would provide a nice diversion for the time being. The ones trying to kill you could be…placated…for now.”

“Wish you would do that more often.”

“Then what hold would I have on you.”

If the Devil was to be believed, Windom was one of his sons. Didn’t matter much to Windom. He’d grown up never knowing his father. All he knew was that he’d been born with the abilities to draw deadly powers from symbols that just appeared in his mind, to confuse people to the point where they would remember nothing of their interactions with him, and he didn’t seem to age much. He could be one-hundred-seventy, could be one-eighty. He’d stopped counting at ninety-nine, and he didn’t look much older than forty-five. Didn’t hurt much either.

Windom snorted. “What’s the job?”

The Devil reached over to the side of his cape and unhooked a dripping strip of meat. With his other hand, he caressed Windom’s cheek, slipped a finger inside Windom’s mouth and pried open Windom’s jaws. He held out the meat and placed it on Windom’s tongue. The blood trickled over Windom’s palette, sweet and buttery, a kick of spice, hint of bitterness. Old Meat and Magma used a killer marinade. Windom closed his eyes, closed his mouth and let the meat dissolve.

As the juices leaked into his cheeks and gums, a symbol burned in his mind’s eye. Angry red flames encircled each line. Animals danced in a spiral: a hawk; a wolf; a lion; a fish; an octopus. They moved, disappearing into the symbol’s center and reemerging at its edges. The symbol grew in size and brightness until it blinded him. He gagged on sulfur and vomited light. The light split into two wormy appendages and collected into twin orbs of flame. The orbs became square-shaped; the lights dimmed, revealing levitating books with rugged, parchment covers. One bore the fiery symbol. The other was titled The Cosmic Heart. Windom’s job, his mission revealed itself to him as he dwelt on the tomes.

The Beyond with Sam Richard

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-susvq-beca19

Violence against eyeballs! Death by acid! The Book of Eibon! Fabio Fucking Frizzi! Hear about all this and more as author and publisher Sam Richard joins Lucas to discuss Lucio Fulci’s legendary splatter flick The Beyond.

Check out Sam’s press Weirdpunk Books and watch for updates on the forthcoming Multi Stabber Tarot Deck.

You can find Lucas’s books here. Or you can support this podcast on Patreon.