Weird Horror

Do you remember the first time you felt it?

Perhaps you were chopping wood one Alaskan night, enjoying the play of muscles and the ache in your hands as thick logs of birch gave way beneath the heavy wedge of a splitting maul, falling like soldiers to be stacked neatly against the killing cold, when something made you look up into the night sky. And there it was, pinning you with the malevolent glare of a billion cold suns, so vast and alien and unknowable that the air turned to ice in your throat.

Did you drop your maul and flee into the safety of your home, did you feed wood into the woodstove with shaking hands and huddle close to the fire, shuddering as though you’d never be warm again?

Or perhaps you were drifting in the tourmaline sea, buoyant and blissfully peaceful in salt-rich waters, smiling around the snorkel’s mouthpiece as small fish darted in and out of your drifting hair, when the shadow came. One moment you’re an apex predator in a new element, feeding bread to the tropical fish and enjoying the womb-warm water sliding along your skin, and the next you’re a scrap of flotsam flailing and gasping between white-maned waves as something peers up at you from the abyss, all tentacles and teeth and flat-eyed hunger?

Did you climb into the boat, feigning seasickness, and refuse to go back into the water?

Did you lock your door?

Turn on all the lights?

Did you turn the television on full blast, call your mom ‘just to say hi’, and shy away from the edge of hysteria in your own voice?

You know you have. It is the reason we build cities—communal campfires made big and bright and knowable—a bulwark against the omnipresent Other. The reason we look away from the plane’s small windows when lightning tears through the sky outside. The reason we fear to skip stones across a still, black pond, or stick a hand into a shoulder-deep hole in the wall, or linger too long in a heart-rotted swamp.

The all-knowing, unknowable weird.

Mary Shelly peered too long into the void, and came back with an undead monster, a wretch with maggots in its heart and madness swimming to the surface of his mad, yellowed eyes.

H.P. Lovecraft, pickled in the brine of his own bigotry and world-loathing, delved too deeply into the mines of nightmare and dredged up the tail end such horror that he turned his face from the sun, ashamed and afraid and small, and begged to know no more.

China Miéville.

Neil Gaiman.

Daphne du Maurier.

Stephen King.

Phillip K. Dick.

Tanith Lee.

Edgar Allen Poe.

These are a few of the storytellers who have tried, with black ink smashed upon bone-white paper like tiny magical wards, to warn us of the ancient horrors which we sense, but which lie beyond our ability to understand.

Like ants pinned beneath a glass lens we freeze, casting wildly about for some clue as to the nature of this threat.

But we cannot comprehend the source of our terror because it is too big, an extinct shark risen from the depths to swallow us whole, a moss-encrusted horror risen once more to suck the marrow from our souls.

We cannot know because we must not know. If we stare too deeply into the expanse, the depths, the void, we will attract the attention of the Unseelie Court, a monster, a god.

And when those terrible eyes meet ours, when the questions we should never have asked are answered, we will see our true selves reflected endlessly, destroying the beautiful lies we have woven about our world, our worth, our place in the universe.

Since our ancestors first gazed up at the night sky, or into a fire’s heart, or into the still waters of a moonlit pool, we have asked: “Who am I? What is out there?”

But we ask in a whisper, and then throw more wood onto the fire, and pretend we don’t feel that searching gaze.

Because in the answer to those questions lies madness.

And it is hungry.


Weird Horror was originally published in Grimdark Magazine Issue #35.

Header image sourced from

Share this
Deborah A. Wolf

Deborah A. Wolf

Deborah A. Wolf was born in a barn and raised on wildlife refuges. She has worked as an underwater photographer, Arabic linguist, private security guard, and wage slave, but never wanted to be anything other than an author. Deborah’s body of speculative fiction, which comprises epic and urban fantasy novels The Dragon’s Legacy (trilogy) and Split Feather as well as inclusion in such notable anthologies as Unfettered II, Weird World War III and IV, and Evil is a Matter of Perspective, has been acclaimed as outstanding literary fantasy and shortlisted for such notable honors as the Gemmell Award. Deborah currently lives in northern Michigan and is represented by Mark Gottlieb of Trident Media Group.