Hans & Greta by Alessandro Manzetti & Paolo Di Orazio

HANS AND GRETA

by Alessandro Manzetti and Paolo Di Orazio

(Translated from Italian by Daniele Bonfanti. English editing by Michael Bailey)

***

Six hours to midnight, October 31st, Night of the Dead, a man’s scream sent all the crows on the roof to the air, shoving them toward a sunset drunk with red. Like a green sponge, the wood of Monte Vergine swallowed that voice, quintessence of blind rage, preventing the wind from carrying it beyond its borders of trunks, leaves, and bark pregnant with time.

Once again, the living trap had worked. The foliage an accomplice, an old silencer of what must not be heard. It had been doing that job for many years, its slender chlorophyll-painted fingers holding sounds and cries by their tails so that they could not run away.

Following the lightning-quick coordinated leap of the crows, all the animals fled from the house of screams, which – dressed in long ivy necklaces, outline smeared by the evanescent tulle of mist – remained unseen to the human eye.

Insects did not follow the other terrorized critters, possessed by the hot fumes of survival instinct; they stayed where they were, kept flying and crawling, their disciplined and slimy routine unchanged as nothing happened. They feared nothing.

Hans worked with chisel and cobbler spikes. He was late on his schedule and trying to hurry. Only a few hours until midnight. He could sense it coming, even with his eyes closed, that sweetish smell beginning to linger all around, so peculiar. Honey of death spread everywhere like flypaper for a day now dead and fucked, transparent wings glued to one another.

He was angry; haste had caused him to make another mistake, an inaccuracy. Meticulous as he was, he wanted to do a perfect job, and he couldn’t accept that sometimes his hands did not comply precisely with what his mind intended to create.

But then, a few adjustments were enough to convert the mistake into a flourish. The masks were turning out well, despite flies that wouldn’t stop harassing him; they ended up in his nose and mouth at every breath.

Were they eager to have what was meant for them, or were they trying to sabotage his work? Those bastards crowded the kitchen, a flying wall, excited like hyenas by the cooking meat, and by the dried cuts stored in the basement inside salt-filled tubs.

In the Steiermark forest, where he came from, those hungry buzzing bitches did not use to be so abundant, but Austria was something else entirely than the woods close to the Po delta.

Hans wasn’t worried about flies, though; his real issue was time. If he did not complete the masks of luck before midnight, his home and his life would founder into disaster.

The four heads he was toiling on – carving and scarring – were mummified; an ancient art learned in his old Salzburg. The grim and raw material was the loot of kidnappings and desecrations. Those corpses were the bread and circus of his pleasures, as well as the nectar of frenzy for his sister, Greta, incestuous lover and huntress of human prey. Hans dealt with flesh treatment and he officiated propitiatory rites; Greta handled human supply.

Muttering and whistling, while bones boiled on the fire with hacked limbs, birch twigs and garlic heads, Hans cut out eyes and mouths, carving new contours in the skin of the skulls, tribal arabesques, lightning bolts, hieroglyphics and fractals, tossing the scraps into the cauldron or chewing on them and sucking their juice as though they were ancient roots with aphrodisiac and psychedelic properties.

He had personally taken care of the beheading of today’s unlucky folks, destined to sneer like masks for the Night of the Dead: nests for flies, with nothing below their necks.

Greta – sister, wife, queen and concubine – always delivered corpses as well as living bodies for him to treat. He never dared ask how that witch could entrap children and adults alike, knocking them out without killing them, to bring them to him ready for sacrifice.

When, before the treatment, his Amazon raped the victims – either on the kitchen floor or over a fell trunk in front of the complacent and watchful eyes of the woods, dripping with hoarfrost and humors from the moldings of its stiff shafts. He would rush in to behead the prey, if he was male, to help his partner reach the apogee of orgasm, a salty, acrid, thick omega of perdition. The severing of their marrow caused spasms that made the victims wag and vibrate inside of her.

While the corpses quivered, trapped by Greta’s fleshy snare, she thanked her partner with that fiery gaze of hers, drooling bliss, then resumed working on those dead tissues, digging her nails into chest muscles or the buttery hips of today’s toy, still warm but tense like stone, insatiably scratching, tearing and coming.

That scene always drove Hans crazy, a very special kykeon oozing on his tongue, trickling in his mouth down from his head, through the cracks of his broken hypothalamus: a hermetic nectar into which he could dip while waiting for erection, illumination, the apparition of a psychotic pink-and-black Nirvana spreading his thighs, creaking like a cartilage gate.

No doubt, she knew how to reward his brother groom, through that slaughter of human flesh and blood put on display in front of his eyes, a spectacle that was every time delirious and unique.

But where was Greta now?

Hans was getting nervous.

The mummified, gaping heads were meant to contain small oil lamps, the eyes removed and sockets well-scraped to leave space for tiny flames. The cap of the skull dome sawed off to remove pulped brain and cerebellum, making room to hold a thick torch to turn the bone translucent, to radiate its cerulean glow in the heart of the Night of the Dead.

Closer every second …

The chisel work, anxiety, and that ever-swelling silence, made the carver’s testosterone seethe. Two of the four masks (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) were women, set on the table with their mouths open, ready to adorn themselves with the festival of flies. Yes, they were becoming stunning, thanks to the bites of those little bastards.

Greta was still nowhere to be seen, and Hans needed to screw one – Air or Earth – if he didn’t want to burst. The two dead whores were inviting him, staring at his pants. Hans knew his partner well enough: if she was late, the slut must be having fun with someone better-looking and cleaner than him, yet during the most important of nights: the Night of the Dead.

So, suddenly doing away with any doubt, he pulled his turgid tube of flesh out of his slacks and slid Air onto the table (she the most beautiful) toward him, setting her at the right level. The woman’s teeth were still white and shiny, but her tongue – not yet unrooted – dry like stale bread. Hans greased her mouth with lard, then he did what he desired, biting his lips whenever he brushed a chipped tooth.

The flies, who had entered her mouth before him, did not care about the man’s pain and his salty pleasure, about his primal hiccupping and grunting.

#

“Now remember, kids, be careful.”

“Sure, Dad. Don’t worry, we won’t be late.”

“Goddamn, Marcello, you’re drunk!” his wife screamed from the kitchen. “Come back inside. Don’t let them see you like that.”

He – a policeman devoured by the moths of depression and a disenchantment toward everything – was drunk indeed, swaying on his legs. But he loved little Giorgio, his son, who still managed to keep him hooked to something about his petty life.

The kid waited with trepidation in front of him, at the front door, together with his buddies, Vanda and Spaghetto, the anorexic and the fatty. Not even his own mother used his birth name anymore.

Marcello gnashed toward his wife’s voice. “Leave me alone, and shut that trap,” he grunted. Then, stealthily, he handed his service weapon to his son, winking. It had been alcohol’s suggestion into his ear: Give him the pistol. Give it to him.

After another glance over his shoulder, to check if his wife was spying on them, he approached the party, stooped with his hands on his knees and whispered, “That’s our secret, kids. Giorgio, you’ll become a great cop, much better than your old man. Keep it well-hidden, and use it to protect your friends if something happens. It’s the Night of the Dead, and you have to stay alert.”

“Oh … thank you, Dad! Sure, I promise.”

Vanda and Spaghetto – their heads hidden under brown bags with raw holes and openings to see and breathe – opened wide their marker-rimmed eyes.

“Cool!” they mouthed in disbelief.

Yep, that was the famous pistol; their friend had told them Iliads and Odysseys about it, perhaps.

“So, can we stay out until dawn?” Giorgio asked. “We’d make a nice load of treats …”

His two companions squeezed at his sides, waiting instruction. All around thirteen years old.

“Stay together, and do whatever you want,” the man gravely answered, “but don’t go toward the woods. Don’t cross the main road.”

“Marcello!” She again, sourer than before, pissed-off as always. “Don’t tell those kids to go into the woods. Are you crazy?”

“Are you getting deaf, too?” he screamed back, while Giorgio weighed the pistol in his hands. “Just what we needed … I’ve said just the opposite, nutgrinder. They must have fun. This is their night. Let them be,” and then, to Giorgio, “Hey, don’t let her see that! Put it away or your mother is going to kill us, this time.” He urged the boy, slurring his words and shoving the weapon into the boy’s coat pocket. “Clear off now, kids, before that shrew drags you inside to watch the telly and say prayers.”

“Later, Dad.”

“Goodbye, Mr. Marcello.”

“Good hunt … I’m going to have a sip, kids. Too hot, tonight … can’t believe it’s October.”

The three friends moved quickly away with their candy bags ready to be filled.

He shut the door, cursing and swearing at his wife.

More slaps were going to fly, tonight, and hard.

#

Giorgio was overjoyed. It was going to be a magic night. His father letting him go out with his pistol. With the pistol. His coat draped lower on one side, loaded with the weight of it in his pocket. The magazine was full, and for a second he feared that his heart – hammering with delight – could blast the bullets.

#

“Thank you, Mrs. Carla,” Spaghetto said, collecting a still-warm fruit tart in his bag.

“Careful with the main road, kids. Goodnight.”

“Thank you, madam. We’re safe tonight.”

“We’re going to Cristoforo. He’ll give us sausages.”

“And then Nicola and Sofia. They always have lots of candies.”

“Giuseppe has panettone.”

“That’s good! But where are we going after that? There are no more houses.”

“Then, we’re making a stretch on the main road.”

“But we can’t …”

“Guys, I’ve become a cop, did you forget?” Giorgio said in a serious voice, holding his breath and slapping his coat pocket.

Luckily, nothing went off.

#

At Monte Vergine, trick-or-treating always ended too soon, the hamlet hosting less than two hundred souls; and whoever worked in the fields usually went to bed at seven, and not even cannonballs could hope to get them up. Forget sausages and panettone. You risked some bucketful of water, or less noble liquids, if you were lucky.

But if you crossed the main road and cut across the woods, in half an hour you could reach Basometto, where you could even find a puny movie house – the Alcazar – with wooden chairs. It wouldn’t have been much faster by bike, as you had to go round the woods along the main road and then take one of the dirt alleys cutting through the country.

But even if you summed up the two small towns, it certainly was nothing like being in Mesola, thirty kilometers away from Monte Vergine, where Marcello worked at the miniature police station that boasted two computers, no less, with internet connection; more people there, and you could easily collect many bags of the good stuff.

Lucky guys, those of Mesola.

#

Hans was satisfied, but he felt tired, and old. He knew he was old, but he had to carry out the rite of the Night of the Dead, and so it would be until the last day of his dirty life. That much he knew as well.

Hans and Greta’s house of screams lit up at dusk, on October 31st, thanks to four human lanterns, scarred with marks and writings of war. The place was a wooden cabin with warped boards swallowed by creepers, the battered temple of hungry, tribal shamanic depravity; the crooked version of ancient, deep-rainforest Mesoamerican rituals, and adorned with four masks of death, and of the earthly reign, to keep at bay the angels and forces of good coming from each cardinal point, so as to preserve the siblings’ sadistic, incestuous, psychotic world, letting their fate run straight down the converging binaries of debased theosophies made of ghoulish libations and beheading violations. Abominations, protected by thick hems of darkness – the accessory tree crowns of bloodsucking roots and the solid fog of their souls, lost decades before in the Austrian forests – that made the house of screams disappear like a spell.

Ultimately, it was about survival, Hans thought, putting back in his slacks his by-now deflated fleshy tube, still dripping and coated in lard. And it was about the survival of your ancestral self, for people like them who had chosen to ride once again the stallions of basic, primal drives, while the world had forgotten its true origins – its refulgent, pure origins.

A few finishing touches, some precision cuts on those worthy skulls, then he would insert the lit lanterns. He drew cirri and triangles, polygons, stars, crosses, asterisks, swastikas, 666s, crescents, Egyptian eyes. The outlines of each writing joined in a honeycomb with all the others, shaping a cryptographic Babel where the assailing angels lost themselves every time, trying in vain to decode it. It always worked. The metal tip possessed him, carving charms as though driven by a heretic Mozart writing music and divinations on flesh and bone.

The marquetry multiplied until turning each head into a tridimensional screaming mosaic. No angel would dare face those masks for long. Not recognizing human features, threads of soul from the divine weft. They would be unarmed by those tragic engravings. Whatever grace could be poured down on the house by flocks of cherubs, seraphim and archangels, with their big hydrants, would bounce back in their faces, turning their halos upside-down on their heads. The time had not come for the reclamation of the house of screams, not yet, not with those masks keeping watch – so long as Hans and Greta continued mating, with each other and with the dead, to the beat of rolling heads, castanets of broken spines and overheated chisels, turning themselves into a steel cable, a link between that cursed earth and Lucifer’s oven below.

Time was running out. Night had fallen already, the wood of Monte Vergine slowing its breath, gasping with dirt in its mouth, and the trees there looked cut off, with their tops stuck right into the womb of darkness. Leaves of black silk and four-legged rustles, ratatouille of flying skulls printed on the bleak livery of circling moths, the metronome of silence, tick-tock, and then a roll of drums: a large pulsating heart among the bushes, a boar’s maybe, or that of some peeping Tom snagged in the shadows, his telescope at his neck and a half-empty rum bottle between his legs.

Hans loved to feel the chisel tip grooving the leather of skin and bone. A symphony hammered in C minor. A pounded requiem, monotonous like the abdominal voice of a cicada. The heads took pleasure with mournful masochism, and he, following the curves of the ornaments, felt the vibrations of the metal tip climb his arm, and from the joint to his jugular vein. He could not but relish in those electric discharges, stimulating his salivary glands as well as his prostate.

The engraver finished scraping the eye sockets, using the same spoon he and Greta used to eat the simple fruits of the earth as well as to scoop up their excrement, dropped in the corners of the house of screams.

He lit the small lanterns, carefully placed them inside the mouths and the socket hollows of the dead heads, then the torch through the polished cranial vaults. Finally, tired and sweaty, he dried his forehead and face with Earth’s blond scalp. She wasn’t beautiful like Air anyway, he told himself, his index fingers tracing the wrinkles of his brow for all their length, fingertips picking up the sticky drops of thoughts he did not dare to think.

He went out with the first two lit masks, placed them upon two bowls on the sides of the porch fence, then he went back inside, out of breath, and reappeared on the backyard with the other macabre couple under his arms; he set them upon two stones, one for each angle.

The wardens shone all together, now. They would guarantee another year of food and lust.

But what about Greta?

Where had the witch ended up?

“Could you say that again, madam?”

“Don’t you hear she’s speaking German, Spaghetto?” Giorgio explained.

“No, that’s French,” Vanda said.

“She got lost. Doesn’t speak our tongue. She can’t read the signs,” Spaghetto said, looking back at his friends and shrugging. “She keeps repeating dancing, dancing … there must be some farmhouse around here having a Halloween party.”

Ja! Dancing! Fuhn!” the woman exclaimed again, loud enough for the other kids to hear.

“Let’s go back, guys. They told us to keep away from the main road,” Vanda said, uneasy.

“Don’t worry, I have the gun,” Giorgio replied, checking out his coat pocket.

“Hey, don’t let her hear you,” the girl muttered, while they caught up with Spaghetto, still leaning against the window of the stranger’s Fiorino van pulled onto the roadside. Nobody passing by, the street was empty. The woman on the vehicle stared in a weird way at the kids’ eyes, cut out in the bags they wore on their heads. They stayed still, dazed by that sardonic gaze, kind and consuming at the same time. They had never seen anything like that.

Then, after some seconds’ silence, the woman resumed speaking and smiling, gesticulating. What the hell was she saying? Only three words were understandable: dancing, fuhn, and going.

Eventually fed up, the woman got out of her van and unmasked the three in a lightning-quick move, pulling the bags off their heads and leaving them gaping as they watched her strange attire: she only wore a white nightgown and was barefoot. It did not look like a party dress at all, but this was Halloween … perhaps they were all dressed like that; must be something cool.

Only grownups were entitled to cool stuff.

The woman crumpled the three masks and tossed them into the ditch, grumbling, “Don’t need!” then to repeat her lullaby – “Go, dancing. Fuhn. Eat all” – and she showed the kids a thirty-two-teeth grin while staying there motionless, waiting for a reply.

“Why don’t we go? To the party, I mean,” Giorgio whispered, excited, moving close to his mates and immediately getting an indignant glance from Vanda. “That would be awesome.”

“Are you nuts? We don’t even know where this crazy woman wants to go,” she said, crossing her arms and turning her back on the little cop.

But Spaghetto, after hearing the words eat all, began hopping around and nodding. “Well, what are we waiting for?”

The fatso was hungry, as always, and what little they had gathered until now was nothing, compared to what they could find at that party.

Was it really a party? Had to be … The woman kept saying dancing, fuhn, and now – to be even more persuasive – she was even performing dance steps and hugging an invisible partner. She moved with the grace of a workhorse, a real joke, but that wasn’t the point.

As soon as she got the kids curious enough, the woman opened the back door to let them climb aboard. She was offering them a ride to the party. Fuhn.

Giorgio was the first to get in.

Vell tahn, you balls!” the stranger said in her hoarse voice, foaming with ludicrous promises.

Vanda protested, stiffening. She wouldn’t have any of it.

“Come on, don’t worry,” the little cop insisted, winking. With the weight in his pocket, he felt ready for anything. Maybe that’s what it’s like, when you grow up.

Spaghetto did not need to be asked twice, though – he leapt into the van, its suspension creaking, and finally the girl surrendered too. Not that she had much of a choice; going back on foot, alone, in the dark, wasn’t exactly tempting. The wood, encircling the scene with its black edges, had always scared her. Bad stories were told about that place. She remembered the old nursery rhyme her gramma used to sing to her:

Monte Vergine’s tummy is empty.

Are you going to be its candy?

Listen to the little bird.

Never in the wood, never close.

The kids squeezed against each other on the backseat, shivering at the dampness stagnating inside the van, while the woman started full-throttle, speeding away in the gloom with the headlights off.

What the hell …

Vanda dug her nails in her skirt fea,ring for the worst.

Spaghetto’s face was suddenly red.

Giorgio kept his eyes on the woman’s nape.

Things had become too weird; they didn’t add up.

If she plays tricks, I’ll deal with her. Cop stuff, the kid was thinking.

The stranger seemed to know exactly where to go, as though she knew every single blade of grass of that area, even in the dark. Now, gravely, like a high priestess in full pagan rapture, she was whispering something incomprehensible, not addressing them; she no longer talked about dances and fun, and her grin had mutated into a hungry sneer. She looked like she was praying with her teeth clenched, while she kept the kids under control in the rearview mirror.

Hans, she repeated, rolling her eyes. Hans. Those frightful eyes.

Giorgio kept his cool; a grownup party would have been awesome, but if things went differently – if that lady wanted to do them harm – he could use the pistol, fix things up, and then, when it was over, contemplate his father’s smiling face as he downed a beer in his honor, just like he did with his crackpot buddies.

We have to party. I didn’t expect that, mate … you’re a tough guy!

But the van was going too fast. For a second, he considered firing a shot at the windshield, close to the witch’s ear, to scare her into stopping. Yep, that’s right: cops don’t kill people, unless they’re forced to.

But the woman kept rushing ever more, and the boy felt pressed against the door at every turn. Opening fire like that, he would have made a mess and … disappointed his father.

Stupid boy, you should have known better!

“Giorgio … the gun!” Vanda whispered into his ear.

The vehicle steered off the main road to take a dirt path. Finally, the woman turned on the headlights, and she kept pushing the gas pedal, racing through the trees. She was laughing, and still whispered: Hans, Hans.

Even if she did not mean to murder them, she must be a lunatic. She would have them dead momentarily. A witch, on Halloween night.

Then, Giorgio decided to act – the time had come to become a real cop.

Use it to protect your friends, if something happens, his father had said.

Right, Dad.

He went over the procedure with clear-headed precision, sing-songing his father’s instructions. His father had been drunk that time, too, when he decided to teach it all to him. Giorgio had never heard him talk so much as that day. Summer, a year before, with mosquitoes bringing it on.

Learn it like a song, so you’ll never forget.   

Where’s the safety?

The ear goes up, the ear goes down. Click-click.

No time to waste: the boy held onto the seat with one hand, drawing the pistol with the other, and raised it close to the woman’s ear, trained at the windshield.

Safety off.

The ear goes up. Click.

He took aim, trying to keep the barrel steady as it swerved on either side. He bit his lips counting to three in his head to ready himself to pull the trigger, but a pothole surprised him and a shot went off.

The woman screamed as though hit, and she lost control. The vehicle rose on a side, seemed to take off sideways then back with its four wheels on the ground, then shook and darted away, leaping some meters more, and crashed into a hollow with a final roar of its engine in Neutral.

Hans waited for Greta, growing more uneasy and furious by the second; but, even borrowing the wood’s ears, he could not feel her presence around there, in their territory; the presence of his queen, of the whore who was ruining everything, just this night. The Night of the Dead.

The masks worked in silence, modulating their dark tribute, flashing at times like unmoving comets. The animals were silent. Even the flies seemed turned into plaster inside their four sepulchers of flesh.

The only perceivable thing was the engraver’s breath, steadily puffing in the gloom, perhaps to blow it away this time. He needed to see her, right now.

Where the fuck are you?

Then, when the rosary of time reached the correct beads, Hans heard the kids’ voices and raised his head.

“Hurry up, Vanda. I told you we weren’t lost,” the little cop said, cheering her up. “See? That’s a house down there.” Giorgio forged ahead, shifting branches to reveal lights in the distance.

“That place is scary, here in the middle of nowhere. Let’s go back to the street. It can’t be far, someone will drive by and …”

“And we’ll get lost. It’s pitch black and it’s cold. Look, they even have Halloween pumpkins down there … They’ll let us in and phone home. We’ve got to call the ambulance for Spaghetto. He looked bad, his face all blue after the crash. Did you see?”

“Yeah, but what about that lunatic?”

“If I didn’t hit her head, she must have broken it … she went through the windshield, so I don’t think she’s … serves her right, anyway. If she isn’t dead, my father will deal with her as soon as he learns about this, you’ll see … he brought in notorious murderers, she’s nobody compared to them … but maybe you prefer going back there to check? Well, if you want it that bad …”

“Cut it out. Okay, but you go first.”

The two of them hurried, making their way through the undergrowth, sliding on their buttocks down a low escarpment, then following a track of grass flattened by the tires of a car, which led to the house. Closer and closer to the lights. Four lights.

“Wait! Giorgio!” Vanda whispered, suddenly halting among the knee-high brush.

“What’s up? Come on, let’s go, we’re almost there.”

“My God, do you see that?”

“What, where? That woman again?”

“No, look, those aren’t … they aren’t … pumpkins.”

“What are you talking about, Vanda?”

Approaching the house of screams, the stench of decay coming from the scraps of the bodies treated by Hans – littering the kitchen floor – squeezed the kids’ throats; they stopped a few meters away, rubbing their eyes because they could not believe what they were seeing.

Water, Fire, Earth, Air.

Disgust.

The four heads seemed to be grinning.

Air (the most beautiful of the two dead damsels) stuck out her tongue, slowly moving it like a snail.

Does she want to say something?

But no, it was just the cursed flies inside, lifting that lifeless piece of meat – bluish and rancid.

The dead cannot speak.

Vanda let out a cry, taking her face in her hands; those winged bastards, never sated, had come out Earth’s sockets to buzz around the girl’s red hair, doing their best to enter her mouth, nose and ears. A living, scented head – a delicacy.

Giorgio, his legs trembling like candle flames, aimed the pistol at the woods, which were stretching black stains over his sneakers.

How can the damned woods move?

He fired on that all-black nothingness, once, twice, but the shadow did not withdraw, beginning instead to coat him in a pernicious film. The shadow was shaped like a man, hairless, with reaching arms and a hand gripping the outline of a large knife; the tricks of the fitful human lanterns made it grow and grow, until they materialized a blade as long as the boy’s body, who took courage and spun around.

Stripped of his warping shadow, Hans showed himself, his gold incisors on display, his undershirt sprayed in blood, and the breath of someone who has just sunk his snout into the carcass of some stinky beast. He smiled to Giorgio, just like that crazy woman in the nightgown. He looked like her.

Hans, Hans. The witch again, that chanting voice, but where was she hiding?

She was there, too, somewhere, with her fetid trail of sweat and blood and her head half-cracked; the boy could hear her hoarse voice a few meters away – a voice he could never forget. Though it sounded somewhat different now. It sounded like someone chewing glass.

Goddamn, the windshield …

Almost trapped, Giorgio had no choice but shoot again – a nice spray this time, random, without even aiming, to deter the couple from getting any nearer so he could run. But this time the gun misfired, the trigger suddenly getting stuck.

The ear goes down or up? You always have to check, his father had warned him. If it’s stuck, you have to cock the hammer, and then you’ll hear how this beauty sings.

The man laughed out loud, moved closer, tilting his head on either side and whispering, Click-click. He was making fun of the little open-mouthed cop. When he came near enough to breathe in Giorgio’s face, Hans brought to his lips a coral cameo hanging from his chain – the embossed old woman head, maybe his mother, tenderly kissing him – then he grasped the boy’s neck with both big hands.

Giorgio awoke tied to a trunk, facedown, naked like a worm.

From that awkward position, he forced his neck muscles and managed to glimpse something beside Earth and Air’s mummified skulls; Vanda’s head glimmered in the dark, freshly cut, a cob stuck between her teeth, while her red scalp – still knotted in little braids – adorned Greta’s head as she kept chewing glass and sweating blood from her lacerated forehead. She excitedly approached that tender body, never touched by woman.

Fuhn.

About the Authors

Alessandro Manzetti is a Bram Stoker Award–winning author and editor of horror fiction and dark poetry whose work has been published extensively in Italian, including novels, short and long fiction, poetry, essays, and collections. English publications include his novel Naraka – The Ultimate Human Breeding, the collections The Garden of Delight, The Massacre of the Mermaids, The Monster, the Bad and the Ugly (with Paolo Di Orazio) and the poetry collections No Mercy, Eden Underground, War (with Marge Simon), Sacrificial Nights (with Bruce Boston), and Venus Intervention (with Corrine De Winter).

His stories and poems have appeared in Italian, American, and UK magazines and anthologies.

He won the Bram Stoker Award in 2016 and was five times a nominee. He was also nominated for the Splatterpunk Award 2018 and other awards. He edited the anthologies The Beauty of Death Vol. 1, The Beauty of Death Vol. 2 – Death by Water (with Jodi Renee Lester) and Monsters of Any Kind (with Daniele Bonfanti).

He is the CEO & Founder of Independent Legions Press, and an active member of the Horror Writers Association. He lives in Trieste, Italy. Website: http://www.battiago.com

Paolo Di Orazio is an author of horror fiction and comics books, whose work has been published in Italian since 1987, including novels, short and long fiction, collections and scripts.

In English he has published comics for Heavy Metal and short stories for the books Dark Gates (with Alessandro Manzetti; Kipple, 2014), My Early Crimes (Raven’s Headpress, 2015), and The Monster, the Bad and the Ugly (with Alessandro Manzetti; Kipple, 2016). His short stories have also appeared in The Beauty of Death Vol. 1 (Independent Legions, 2016), The Beauty of Death Vol. 2 – Death by Water (Independent Legions, 2017) and Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 2 (Comet Press, 2017).

His short story “Hell” is in The Best Horror of the Year list by Ellen Datlow (2015).

His first novel translated into English, Dark Mary, will be released in November 2018 from Independent Legions. He is an active member of the Horror Writers Association and lives in Rome, Italy.

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MONSTERS AND ANIMALS by JF Gonzalez & Wrath James White (Deadite Press)

Fan-fucking-tastic! This book is awesome and a must for any fans of the more extreme end of splatterpunk and extreme horror. The book is two novellas in one, both linked and set in the same universe as JF Gonzalez’s classic novel, SURVIVOR. JF wrote the first novella, MONSTERS, and the second, ANIMALS was finished by his some-time collaborator and friend, Wrath James White. First of all, Wrath did a great job in finishing off JF’s work, (hats off to you!). Secondly, this is fucking great book and I’m so glad it saw the light of day.

MONSTERS, tells the story of Melanie and how she uncovers her mother’s evil secret in the family basement. ANIMALS, my favourite of the two, is more in the style of SURVIVOR. We meet Mike, a young gay, who’s kicked out of his family home by his Dad and ends up turning tricks on the notorious streets of 1970’s NYC, finally ending up in a world of extreme sex and torture, and his hippie friends who try to do the best thing and save his ass from the dangers this life brings. It’s all Dark Web stuff, nothing you’d find in your local sex club, but at the same time it makes highly addictive reading. I couldn’t put it down and was so disappointed when it ended. I wanted more!

Fans of SURVIVOR will know what to expect, this is some sick, depraved stuff. Not for the faint hearted! It’s also an extreme horror reader’s wet dream. Both stories centre around the snuff movie scene. I don’t wanna give too much away but there’s some really fucked up death scenes involving sex and torture. If you’ve read SURVIVOR then you’ll know what I’m talking about, and if that book offended you then you won’t be picking this one up. Same goes for any of Wrath’s work. MONSTERS AND ANIMALS is a modern splatterpunk classic, and I urge any fan of the sub-genre to check it out. (Jack Bantry)

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Splatterpunk Fighting Back

 

The latest Splatterpunk anthology, SPLATTERPUNK: FIGHTING BACK (co-edited by Kit Power), has been nominated for a Splatterpunk Award at Killercon (organised by Wrath James White and Brian Keene), along with 3 of the stories: Extinction Therapy by Bracken Macleod, Melvin by Matt Shaw and Molly by Glenn Rolfe. All of the royalties from FIGHTING BACK are being donated to the cancer care charity, MacMillan.

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Jack Bantry’s Top Ten Splatterpunk and Extreme Horror Novels

I’ve read a lot of these types of lists in the past, never agreed with many of the books on the lists, so I’ve decided to create my own.  Some predictable titles on here, but hey-ho, these are my favourites and this is my list.

Continue reading

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“A DIY Guide to Putting Out Your Very Own Zine” by Jack Bantry

“A DIY Guide to Putting Out Your Very Own Zine” by Jack

In the 1980’s and 90’s photocopied, or Xeroxed, zines were very popular. They were an affordable way for a publisher to put out an anthology (or collection) of stories. Unfortunately, due to the advancement in printing, the traditional zine has been replaced by glossy, professional looking magazines, and people took advantage of the internet to produce (mainly free) online zines (these were short lived). Now, with technology being the way it is, podcasts and (YouTube) video blogs are the new thing.

So, why write a column about putting out your very own zine, you may ask, when the article could be a guide to putting out a podcast or YouTube blog? Well, it doesn’t have to be this way.

I think there’s still a place for the traditional zine in modern publishing.

Why?

Nostalgia: we all love some nostalgia.

Affordability: cheap to print (or use your workplaces machine). Do a deal with work. Buy the paper and give them some money towards the ink or toner if needed.

Helps create the publishers persona or brand for you, the writer/publisher. Jack Bantry – he’s the Splatterpunk guy, (not to be mistaken for David Schow – the older, original Splatterpunk guy!).

Creating a market for short stories, these are disappearing rapidly so you could do your bit (we all could – how cool would that be?) and help the “scene” grow and become stronger.

Do something similar (and probably cheaper) with your own stories, like a chapbook.

Better still get together with some other writer friends. For example: if four of you put in a story and then all chipped in on the printing cost in would cost you next to nothing (especially if you used the works copier); and it would give you…

Something to sell at conventions: you can print as many as you want, whenever you want, and take them to the next convention you are attending.

So how do you put out a zine?

Create your own style (brand). I’m a punk so I have gone with what I know. I also love splatter fiction. There we have it. Splatterpunk Zine.

What do you include? Whatever you want: fiction; non-fiction; illustrations; interviews; book reviews. It doesn’t even have to be fiction, it could be essays.

You can pick the style or genre: extreme horror; Splatterpunk; bizarro; ghost stories; quiet horror, crime, Sci-if, a guide to picking and eating wild mushrooms in North Yorkshire. It really can be whatever you want.

Once you’ve decided what you want to produce you get writing or invite or go down the open submissions route. There lots of computer programmes to help you layout the zine (you’ll probably already have some on your computer) and you can get fancy programmes like InDesign. Or you can be old skool (old is cool) and go cut & paste with some scissors and glue. Create a master copy and go the printers.

Then you’ve just got to sell them. Keeping the costs down will help with a low sale price. Set up your own website (free using places like WordPress), linking to pay sites like Big Cartel (again, free) will allow people to pay with PayPal, or just get out there to conventions and book/zine fairs and sell them.

There’s no right way to put out a zine, I’m no expert, just get out there and have a go.

It’s also DIY!

See you in the queue at the photocopier.

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Splatterpunk: Fighting Back (a charity anthology)

SPLATTERPUNK: FIGHTING BACK is a horror anthology edited by Jack Bantry and Kit Power, published by Splatterpunk Zine, in aid of a cancer support charity. The anthology features new fiction by Adam Millard, Matt Shaw, Bracken MacLeod, John Boden, Duncan Ralston, Rich Hawkins, Glenn Rolfe, George Daniel Lea, Tim Curran, WD Gagliani & Dave Benton and Kristopher Rufty. Like our previous anthology, SPLATTERPUNK’S NOT DEAD, the cover art’s by Dan Henk, with cover design by Mike Dickinson.

The anthology is available on paperback and Kindle from Amazon.

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TENEBRION by James H Longmore (Book Review)

TENEBRION by James H Longmore (Black Bed Sheet Books)

A group of young film makers, hoping to land the coveted first place spot of a contest, have a doozy of a plan to do so. First, they’ll film their movie at the scene of a horrific crime, a school shooting that haunts the city to this day. Second, they’ll perform a black magic ritual and invoke a demon – on film. Third, they’ll win all the fame and accolades. Solid plan…until it goes south. The ritual is a success and our crew of film folks find themselves pursued through a haunted school by an evil beast bent of ravaging their bodies as well as their minds. It could be boiled down as PECKER meets NIGHT OF THE DEMONS.

The cast of TENEBRION are not the most likeable, that’s what I liked about it. And the depth Longmore gives them is remarkable. What would surely be another shallow pulp horror novel is elevated by the attention to character detail and the gallows humor he peppers this with. Much like the last thing I read from him, FLANAGAN, Longmore lets his comic side show through at the darkest times. A bloody good time to be had here. (John Boden)

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