New Collection/Fundraiser Update: An Excerpt from “The Night Hours”

Right now, my fundraiser is at $805 out of $1500, with a goal of publishing a collection of five stories (two reprints, and three originals). With every $300 reached, I officially add another work to the book, so right now, the two reprints are definitely going to be packaged together for everyone who contributed. At $900, I’ll add in a brand new story, “The Night Hours”.

The first two stories include my science fiction tendencies: a tale of robots fighting ghouls after the world has died, and another where the worst of Miskatonic’s dark knowledge finds new life online. “The Night Hours” is different: heavily influenced by pulp detective stories, it follows a Filipino man living in a creepy little coastal town, in Massachusetts, in the 1930s, whose girlfriend has gone missing. He’ll have to risk his life to save her… probably.

If he decides to. It sort of depends on the day.

It was about eleven o’clock at night, mid-October, and Epifanio was supposed to be washing dishes in the back of the steam-filled kitchen. He was wearing a dull (but mostly white) buttoned shirt, with his sleeves rolled up, and a stained apron that belonged to the joint. The shirt was his, along with the black pants and scuffed but comfortable black shoes, but resented that he was required to wear them, and grouched about it, often. He leaned against the doorway, not quite in the bar, and not quite in or out of the kitchen, either. It was a neutral space, that square foot of in-between, where he could claim to be doing other than what he was: watching Willie Green blow the roof off the place with his horn.

“Hey, Chinaman,” the bartender growled. “Stop ogling the skirts, and get back to work.”

Epifanio wasn’t Chinese, or ogling, but didn’t argue the point. Mickey, the barrel-shaped Irishman who ran the place, hired him because he couldn’t tell the “Orientals” apart. So there were some things Epifanio knew to be wrong but didn’t say. Truth is, there were a lot of things like that.

The kitchen was a square, squat, low-ceilinged room with no windows, but it had three entrances. The single maroon door, with the round porthole, Bob let swing shut behind him as he left the bar. The black double doors led into the restaurant, where round, red, lacquered tables and pretty girls in embroidered satin gave the impression that this was where traditional Chinese cuisine was happening. Except it was New England, and Epifanio had never seen that particular blend of tables, patterns, and ink-wash paintings in any kitchen he’d been in before. But he’d never been to China, so what did he know?

Mickey didn’t let colors mix in his dining room. Chances were pretty good that no one eating the roast duck and pan-fried rice knew it wasn’t authentic. Or maybe it was now, a new traditional, a true Innsmouth dining experience, the kind we’d all be getting used to soon enough.

That last door, a scratched steel slab, was all that stood between Epifanio and freedom at the end of the night. It was the service entrance, which Mickey like to call the “servants” entrance, because the staff wasn’t allowed in any other way. Oh, sometimes, one girl or another would get the privilege of walking in through the front door for a few weeks, but we knew the price they paid. All through the evening, the sound of loud voices and clanking silverware burst into the kitchen at regular intervals as the waitresses glided through to pick up their orders, and then back out into the fray. Later, the diners would fade away, and the bar would pick up their slack. On a good night the sound of jazz would leak through under the other door, making our last hour of clean up not quite so bad.

If we stayed late enough, sometimes old Chen dealt cards and we cooked dinner for ourselves, the way our mothers would have, then all of those other sounds faded away, and the only thing creeping in was the pernicious Innsmouth fog, that stuck its fat fingers under doors and slithered in on its belly. Not even the steel could keep it out.

I’m running out of time to pay off what I owe so I can register for Fall, so please, if you can contribute today. I can take contributions via PayPal here (Anything sent this way is still eligible for the same rewards, and I add it to the total at GoFundMe so everyone can see where we are). If you’d like, you can use the GoFundMe instead.

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