Twice Upon an Apocalypse edited by Rachel Kenley and Scott T. Goudsward
Crystal Lake Publishing, 2017
Kenley and Goudsward hit an untapped vein with this collection of fairy tales with Lovecraftian themes. Between the pages of this book are twenty-one stories of morality mixed with the twisted gods and entities we have come to know through Lovecraftian fiction. Each story has its own flavor and maddening end. Revamped tales are culled from Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, Charles Perrault, Joseph Jacobs, Robert Browning, L. Frank Baum, and Washington Irving. While all of these stories have merit, a few stood out more than others.
The cats start disappearing from the sleepy town of Providence in “The Pied Piper of Providence” by William Meikle. The rural dwellers talk about strange creatures roaming the outskirts, but of course the city folk pay no heed; certain it is simply superstition that makes them talk. Then the rats come and all hell breaks loose. An old man, dressed in almost ridiculous attire and armed with two wooden flutes, appears in the town. He introduces himself as Rattenfänger von Hameln and he is their only salvation. What happens when the councilmen bilk the old man of his payment, and who does he take for compensation instead? David Bernard’s “Little Maiden of the Sea” tells the story of the little Deep One who wants so badly to dwell among the air-breathers. When she meets old man Whateley, she agrees to his strange terms and accepts his offer. He calls her Lavinia, and she bears him two sons that will change the fate of humanity. In “The King on the Golden Mountain” by Morgan Sylvia, a man who lost his wealth makes a pact with a strange man that he would be restored to his former glory, provided that in twelve years he sacrifice the first living thing he sees upon his return to his home. Unfortunately for the man, it is his own son who greets him as he arrives back to his humble abode. The twelve years elapse, and the son is taken back to the obelisk where the strange man is waiting. In a strange turn of events, the son, due to his only half human blood, is teleported to a new world and makes a family for himself with his new fork tongued bride. What transpires for the father and son leads to total destruction, new life, and a tragic return home. “Once Upon a Dream” by Matthew Baugh twists the tale of the unfortunate Sleeping Beauty from the form of a girl to that of the newly birthed Cthulhu. Hastur, taking umbrage at not being invited to the great Cthulhu’s feast, curses little Cthulhu and it comes to pass. Millennia pass as little Cthulhu slumbers until the day the one man in the entire world can wake her.
My favourite story in this collection is based on Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. At the center of “The Legend of Creepy Hollow” by Don D’Ammassa, are Arthur Abrams, assistant professor of physics at Miskatonic University, and Martin Ichabod, of the Ichabod Crane Company and wealthy man about town. They meet at a social gathering meant to raise funds to expand the university’s library (a noble venture if I do say so myself). Arthur relies on empirical evidence rather than the unknown while Martin is very much a student of the occult and supernatural. Katrina Bergen, a mathematics graduate student, enters the story, and Arthur falls in love with her immediately. Externally, she carries reference and subject related materials, but she secretly reads romance novels and watches romantic comedies in the privacy of her apartment. Alas, he finds her talking to the dashing Martin at an event celebrating the library’s newly acquired funding for the expansion. The rivalry between the two men grows with every meeting, the verbal spats about the known world versus the unknown world increase. Martin eventually invites Arthur to dinner and a demonstration that leaves the world changed forever.
Other stories include “The Three Billy Goats Sothoth” by Peter N. Dudar; “In the Shade of the Juniper Tree” by J.P. Hutsell; “The Horror at Hatchet Point” by Zach Shephard; “Follow the Yellow Glyph Road” by Scott S. Goudsward; “Gumdrop Apocalypse” by Pete Rawlik; “The Ice Queen” by Mae Empson; “Cinderella and Her Outer Godfather” by C.T Phipps; “Curiosity” by Winifred Burniston; and “Sweet Dreams in the Witch-house” by Sean Logan.
Every story in this collection is a gem. If you like dark reimaginings of fairy tales, you should check this one out. I was apprehensive about pairing Lovecraftian themes with fairy stories, but it worked rather well. Highly recommended.
Contains: some blood and gore, racial epithets in “In the Shade of the Juniper Tree”
Reviewed by Lizzy Walker