This is a guest contribution from Emerian Rich of HorrorAddicts.net. If you’re a fan of our radio show, you might recognize Emz’s name. She was one of our first guests! Her press has a new anthology out that they’re trying to spread the word about. We wanted to help. Emz was looking for places to participate in the book’s blog tour. We didn’t hesitate volunteering space here on HJ. Hope you enjoy this creepy offering…
HorrorAddicts.net Press presents…Clockwork Wonderland.
Clockwork Wonderland contains stories from authors that see Wonderland as a place of horror where anything can happen and time runs amok. In this book you’ll find tales of murderous clockworks, insane creations, serial killers, zombies, and a blood thirsty jabberclocky. Prepare to see Wonderland as a place where all your worst nightmares come true. You may never look at classic children’s literature the same way again.
Edited by Emerian Rich
Cover by Carmen Masloski
Laurel Anne Hill
With Foreword by David Watson
by Trinity Adler
Until recently, I couldn’t say why I hated dark spaces. Those odd corners, tight closets, and cubbies where light doesn’t reach were too frightening to me. I avoided them all.
At least I did until my tutor left on holiday. I could have filled the time with French lessons or practice on the new typewriter my Aunt ordered up from London, but I didn’t do any of those things. I wanted to enjoy those hours outdoors, in the open air.
On the first day, I planned an early morning walk through the garden to be followed with a brisk horseback ride. I decided my navy riding habit with tan trousers, boots, and almost knee-length leather-trimmed jacket would fit the ticket. I braided my blonde locks tight to my head and went to retrieve my winter scarf and hat, but they were gone.
My excitement dimmed. All the warm scarves and gloves were still tucked away for summer storage in the guest room. That meant a search through Aunt Jenna’s old wardrobe, one of the dark spaces I disliked. A riding jacket was not enough protection from the chill. There was no choice.
I entered the room with some speed hoping a run to the cabinet would get me safely out before anything inside could notice my presence. Approaching the wardrobe with trembling hands, I took a deep breath and reached up to open the door.
“It’s only a closet, only a closet.” I repeated the mantra as if those words were a shield against any creatures lurking in the dark. The stiff hinges of the door creaked. It stuck before swinging free with force, banging against my forehead.
“Ouch!” I stumbled backward. “Only a closet,” I whispered again, closing my eyes, moving forward, and grabbing for the scarf and gloves. I couldn’t control the thumping of my heart.
Where were they? Breathing hard, head aching, I forced myself to lean in deeper.
“Come on, where are you?” I wanted to feel the soft touch of cashmere. Instead, I felt something bumping down my forearm. I jerked my arm from the cabinet and an object rolled out too. A hat. It bounced down over me, then out the door.
Having identified my assailant, I laughed. I opened the door wide to let in some light and selected my favorite scarf. When I went to shut it again, a gleam of metal caught my eye.
A little gold treasure hung from the hook where I’d taken up the scarf. Removing it and closing the door, I held it to the light.
“Where did you come from? I’ve never seen you before. Such an expensive trinket, too. Perhaps you belonged to Grandpapa.” I made a quick study of my find, a pocket watch engraved with a large WR in script across its cover. Attached to the crown was a matching double Albert chain with an ornate heart-shaped fob designed to hang from a waistcoat. Further examination would have to wait until after my walk.
I dropped the watch into my jacket pocket, put on my gloves and hat, wrapped the scarf about my neck, and headed outside for fresh air. I’d just made my way down the steps to the garden when a voice stopped me in my tracks.
“Alice. Aaaalice. You’re late!” I looked around to see who’d called my name. There was no one in sight.
I walked on, admiring the wine-red flower borders. I heard it again, louder.
“Aaaaaalice!” I looked around and put my hands in my pockets, shivering with unease. My fingers brushed against the watch.
The case was hot enough it might burn through the lining of the coat. I grabbed it and jerked it out of my pocket. Painful to hold, even with a gloved hand, the watch toppled from my grasp. I picked it up again by the chain to look it over. I touched it.
“Hmm… Not warm anymore are you?” Perhaps I’d just heard it chime, and imagined the rest.
“Open!” came a sharp order from the timepiece. How ridiculous. It was impossible to be ordered about by a pocket watch. I examined the watch with more care. Why did it seem so familiar? A memory trickled through my mind, but I couldn’t retrieve it. I held the antique piece to my ear. No ticking. I pressed the winding stem under the crown. The case sprang open.
To my surprise, the printed surface contained two chapter rings instead of the usual single circle of minutes and hours. That outside row of markings was very strange indeed, noting twelve months of the year instead of twelve hours of a day.
The smaller ring inside the first had the usual hour marks in five minute increments like any watch. There was a portrait of a cat with its jagged teeth exposed in a grin above the number twelve in the hourly notations. Next to the cat was a small window displaying a number. I set the time and wound it up. A soft ticking commenced.
The month ring was on a separate face dial than turned beneath the hours. It spun anti-clockwise at a speedy pace, placing a different month above the hour marked twelve every turn as if it couldn’t choose where to stop in the year. The number in the window kept changing too. I realized it showed the day of the week.
As I gazed at the strange instrument, the hands of the watch made a dramatic switch to a new position then ticked backwards. The numbers and letters on the face of both chapter markers and the number in the window flipped. They looked like gibberish to me.
“Oh dear.” I felt faint and quite ill. “The kipper I ate for breakfast was off.” My knees buckled. My feet slid forward. I fell. No, I floated.
To read the full story and more Clock-inspired, Alice Horror, check out Clockwork Wonderland.