Manual Shades: Eight Tales of Terror

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Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849)

All rights reserved. Sign in to annotate. Delete Cancel Save. Nathan Hilliard some questions about his writing, his short story collection Shades and his upcoming work. After I came down with Charcot Marie Tooth in my forties, I started hunting around for something new to do since I could no longer do any of the jobs I had held in the past. I remembered that I had been pretty good at writing in high school, so I decided to try and approach that with the same seriousness that I would any of my former jobs.

Having grown up in assorted small towns in Texas, I was exposed to different tales of ghosts and hauntings that had a decidedly local flavor to them. They usually involved ordinary, small-town people and combined a sense of local history with a flair for the ghastly. These tales were usually told by kids to each other, although I imagine they were handed down from their elders.

I tried to capture some of that flavor in this anthology.


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  • I used to dream as a child of looking out my bedroom window and seeing a distant ghost getting closer and closer to the house. So I got to get that one out of my system.

    Full text of "The tale of terror; a study of the Gothic romance"

    Life is sometimes monstrously unfair, and takes things from people in the cruelest ways. Because this story dealt with those issues, it ends in a different tone than the rest. About eight months. It was originally going to be a simple anthology of horror tales, some of which I had already written, but about two months into the project I decided to make it a more focused work that dealt exclusively with ghost stories. Depends on the setting. Right now may be one of the most exciting times in history to be a writer.

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    Majanka is twenty-six years old and she's loved reading from the moment she finished her first book. She works as a Legal Counsel, and also has a Criminology degree. She's been blogging about books since and became an official reviewer for ind'Tale Magazine in September She promotes authors and sets up virtual book tours through Enchanted Book Promotions. She writes books for children and young adults. Find out more about her writing here. She also designs websites and graphics on I Heart Designs. On top of that, she's also a freelance editor. Find her editing portfolio on The OverAchiever.

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    I'm participating in five challenges this year. To see which ones, and my progress, visit this page. Would you like to advertise your book here? We left some advertising space here for book covers xpx. Some were quite small, but the majority about as big as an average balloon, and with much the same curvature at the top.

    There was in them a delicacy of texture and colouring which reminded me of the finest Venetian glass.

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    Pale shades of pink and green were the prevailing tints, but all had a lovely iridescence where the sun shimmered through their dainty forms. Some hundreds of them drifted past me, a wonderful fairy squadron of strange unknown argosies of the sky—creatures whose forms and substance were so attuned to these pure heights that one could not conceive anything so delicate within actual sight or sound of earth.

    These were long, thin, fantastic coils of vapour-like material, which turned and twisted with great speed, flying round and round at such a pace that the eyes could hardly follow them.


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    Some of these ghost-like creatures were twenty or thirty feet long, but it was difficult to tell their girth, for their outline was so hazy that it seemed to fade away into the air around them. These air-snakes were of a very light grey or smoke colour, with some darker lines within, which gave the impression of a definite organism. One of them whisked past my very face, and I was conscious of a cold, clammy contact, but their composition was so unsubstantial that I could not connect them with any thought of physical danger, any more than the beautiful bell-like creatures which had preceded them.

    There was no more solidity in their frames than in the floating spume from a broken wave. Floating downwards from a great height there came a purplish patch of vapour, small as I saw it first, but rapidly enlarging as it approached me, until it appeared to be hundreds of square feet in size. Though fashioned of some transparent, jelly-like substance, it was none the less of much more definite outline and solid consistence than anything which I had seen before.

    There were more traces, too, of a physical organization, especially two vast, shadowy, circular plates upon either side, which may have been eyes, and a perfectly solid white projection between them which was as curved and cruel as the beak of a vulture. On the upper curve of its huge body there were three great projections which I can only describe as enormous bubbles, and I was convinced as I looked at them that they were charged with some extremely light gas which served to buoy up the misshapen and semi-solid mass in the rarefied air.

    The creature moved swiftly along, keeping pace easily with the monoplane, and for twenty miles or more it formed my horrible escort, hovering over me like a bird of prey which is waiting to pounce. Its method of progression—done so swiftly that it was not easy to follow—was to throw out a long, glutinous streamer in front of it, which in turn seemed to draw forward the rest of the writhing body.

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    So elastic and gelatinous was it that never for two successive minutes was it the same shape, and yet each change made it more threatening and loathsome than the last. Every purple flush of its hideous body told me so. The vague, goggling eyes which were turned always upon me were cold and merciless in their viscid hatred. I dipped the nose of my monoplane downwards to escape it. As I did so, as quick as a flash there shot out a long tentacle from this mass of floating blubber, and it fell as light and sinuous as a whip-lash across the front of my machine.

    There was a loud hiss as it lay for a moment across the hot engine, and it whisked itself into the air again, while the huge, flat body drew itself together as if in sudden pain. I dipped to a vol-pique, but again a tentacle fell over the monoplane and was shorn off by the propeller as easily as it might have cut through a smoke wreath. A long, gliding, sticky, serpent-like coil came from behind and caught me round the waist, dragging me out of the fuselage. I tore at it, my fingers sinking into the smooth, glue-like surface, and for an instant I disengaged myself, but only to be caught round the boot by another coil, which gave me a jerk that tilted me almost on to my back.

    And yet I aimed better than I knew, for, with a loud report, one of the great blisters upon the creature's back exploded with the puncture of the buck-shot. It was very clear that my conjecture was right, and that these vast, clear bladders were distended with some lifting gas, for in an instant the huge, cloud-like body turned sideways, writhing desperately to find its balance, while the white beak snapped and gaped in horrible fury. But already I had shot away on the steepest glide that I dared to attempt, my engine still full on, the flying propeller and the force of gravity shooting me downwards like an aerolite.

    Far behind me I saw a dull, purplish smudge growing swiftly smaller and merging into the blue sky behind it. I was safe out of the deadly jungle of the outer air. It was a glorious, spiral vol-plane from nearly eight miles of altitude—first, to the level of the silver cloud-bank, then to that of the storm-cloud beneath it, and finally, in beating rain, to the surface of the earth. I saw the Bristol Channel beneath me as I broke from the clouds, but, having still some petrol in my tank, I got twenty miles inland before I found myself stranded in a field half a mile from the village of Ashcombe.

    There I got three tins of petrol from a passing motor-car, and at ten minutes past six that evening I alighted gently in my own home meadow at Devizes, after such a journey as no mortal upon earth has ever yet taken and lived to tell the tale.

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    I have seen the beauty and I have seen the horror of the heights—and greater beauty or greater horror than that is not within the ken of man. My reason for this is that I must surely have something to show by way of proof before I lay such a tale before my fellow-men. It is true that others will soon follow and will confirm what I have said, and yet I should wish to carry conviction from the first.

    Those lovely iridescent bubbles of the air should not be hard to capture. They drift slowly upon their way, and the swift monoplane could intercept their leisurely course. It is likely enough that they would dissolve in the heavier layers of the atmosphere, and that some small heap of amorphous jelly might be all that I should bring to earth with me.

    And yet something there would surely be by which I could substantiate my story. Yes, I will go, even if I run a risk by doing so.