Hello, I’m a unicorn.Well, it’s that time of the year again. It’s the time when the leaves change color, the air gets cooler, and I break the spine-tingling stories best read under the covers. And to start it off, let’s go back to the time of the Comic’s Code Authority and meet Cain, the able caretaker of the House of Mystery. If you have read the first volume of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Cain should look very familiar. If you haven’t read Sandman, what are you sitting here for? Go out and read that masterpiece.
Showcase Presents House of Mystery Volume One collects the first twenty-one issues of this horror anthology. It tells chilling tales of witches, ghosts, and instant karma, just add water. These stories range from chilling and tragic, to unintentionally silly. I would be here all day if I was to talk about every single one the stories, so here are a few of my favorites in no particular order.
Devil’s Doorway: Phillip Warren, a family man and a student of the occult purchases a mysterious mirror in an auction. His daughter soon discovers that the doorway is actually a portal, and let’s just say that whatever is on the other side isn’t exactly Heaven.
Mask of the Red Fox: A man becomes obsessed with hunting and killing a beautiful red fox, unaware, of course that the fox is actually his wife. (This isn’t a spoiler, it’s explicitly said on the first page.) Even though I’ve heard many variations of the story (usually with the wife as a werewolf) I never get tired of it. It’s just a classic tale of be careful what you wish for.
Eye of the Basilisk: A basilisk is a mythological creature born from a chicken’s egg hatched from under a toad. It’s often drawn as a giant snake or a snake/chicken hybrid and looking into its eyes can kill you. If that doesn’t kill you, the venom will. It is said that a single drop of basilisk venom is enough to poison a well for one hundred years. Only a rooster’s crow or a weasel can kill it. Mythology is weird. In this story, a basilisk is plaguing an ancient kingdom, and all but one man is unable to defeat it. This is one of the few tales that delves into fantasy and it is a fun, if predictable vignette.
Sir Greeley’s Revenge: Against the wishes of his sister and nephew, Sir Greely, a kind English gentleman takes in an orphaned boy named Tim. He discovers that the boy is a piano prodigy, and, after his death, he puts in his will that Tim will inherit Greeley’s fortune if he plays a concert flawlessly. The niece and nephew scheme to ruin Tim’s concert, so with the help of Sir Greeley, Tim must outfox the two. This is one of most heartwarming stories in the collection and one of my personal favorites.
The Wondrous Witches Cauldron: Imagine for a moment that you were capable of granting wealth and fame to the people you worked for, but you have no way of telling them that you were responsible for their good fortune. Such is the tragedy of the witch’s cauldron, a sentient pot that brings luck to every one of its owners, but since they don’t realize that the pot is what causes their luck, they carelessly discard it. To me, being trapped in your own body, unable to tell others that you are alive and awake when they throw you to your doom, is one of the most terrifying things possible.
Nightmare: A lonely little girl named Judy befriends the god Pan. As the two play together, she starts getting sicker and sicker. She eventually travels to his world to play. She is allowed to play anywhere as long as she doesn’t go through strange door. I think you can guess what she decides to do while her friend is asleep. This is my absolute favorite story out of the whole collection. It’s sweet and tragic, especially the perfect ending.
This is but a taste of the stories in this huge volume, and I didn’t even get into the comic strips and short stories featured . While some of the stories can be a bit predictable and silly, every one is a fun read. So what are you waiting for? Hunt down a copy and read it now.
Kirin put on a pair of gloves. Carefully removing the book from the blanket she had covered used to cover it, she placed the book on the kitchen counter. She examined the dark leather binding, taking careful note of every detail in the gilding. Slowly, almost reverently, she lifted the cover.
“Hey, what’cha doing?” Textbox asked. Kirin jumped, slamming the cover shut. Her face flushed. She looked over to Textbox, who had once again possessed her old stuffed Ninja Turtle.
“Nothing.” She didn’t make eye contact with the doll. Textbox sighed.
“That’s the guiltiest “nothing” I have ever heard. If you’re really so curious, just open the freaking book. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen. Except maybe you accidentally call C’thulhu, have your eyes melt out of your face, you destroy the world, or maybe you just go guano insane. Then again, you’re already halfway there anyway, but–” Kirin groaned.
“Alright. I get it. I won’t look at the book, but if there’s a chance that I can stop whatever potential future me has said would happen, shouldn’t I take it?” She blanket back around the book.
“Sure, when there’s someone around that can make sure none of us do anything stupid like read it out loud or something.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. I mean–” She was cut short by the lights going out. After a moment, they went back on. Kirin gasped. On the opposite wall, written in in a strange, reddish brown substance was the word “Incomplete.”
“Is-is that blood?” Textbox whispered. Kirin and Textbox examined the wall. She sniffed, and recognizing the aroma, she laughed. “What? What is it?” Textbox asked. Kirin, on a whim, removed some of the substance with her finger and licked it. “Ew, ew, ew, ew! That is so gross!”
Kirin laughed even harder, to a point where she was practically hysterical. “Chocolate sauce,” she choked out. “It’s chocolate sauce!” She went to the refrigerator and pulled out an empty bottle of Hershey’s chocolate. Textbox started laughing.
“Chocolate sauce? What kind of self respecting home invader uses chocolate sauce to scare people?” The two laughed like madmen. The shadow, which now had a form, stamped her foot in frustration.