The seven-year-old kid in the striped polyester suit with lapels meant to rival the wingspan of a small aircraft pulls another book from the shelves marked “Children’s Section.” There are a lot of stories about sharing and being polite and the many other secrets for successful passage through the mysterious portal of Adolescence into the fabled land of Adulthood, where parents and teachers live. But the kid keeps searching until something different catches her eye: a spooky blue cover with an odd-looking creature just visible at the bottom edge. The card catalog reveals that the book is about “a strange varmint that haunts the woodsman who lopped off his tail and had it for dinner.” The title is The Tailypo: A Ghost Story,
written by Joanna C. Galdone
and illustrated by Paul Galdone
. And the kid doesn’t need to search any further—she knows that this
book is the one…
Growing up, the one constant in the ever-changing homes of our military family was the reading material: stacks of dog-eared Life and National Geographic magazines; books of every level and subject imaginable; the ubiquitous family encyclopedia set with the pages for “dinosaurs” and “sex” showing about equal wear and tear—you name it, we had it, and I took full advantage, reading (or at least attempting to read) everything I could get my hands on. But that little blue book with the odd-looking creature on the cover stood out—it was even wilder than Where the Wild Things Are, even more sinister than dragons and wizards and adolescent detectives. My sister and I would spend hours recording ourselves reading The Tailypo, and then even more hours listening back, terrifying ourselves with ourselves. She was the narrator and I was the Tailypo. When my turn came, I got to howl lines like, “You know, and I know, that I’m here to get my tailypo!” The illustration that accompanied this part of the text showed the Tailypo crawling up the side of the old woodsman’s bed to retrieve his lost tail. Which was, of course, at the bottom of the woodsman’s stomach. THE TAILYPO
Needless to say, The Tailypo does not have a happy ending. No smiling children or cute anthropomorphized animals learn a lesson or overcome an obstacle. But from that tale, one particular reader discovered this magical fact: that the page can capture what every child instinctively knows--that there are strange, unexplainable forces out there, and that sometimes they get in here; that along with the majestic mountains and tranquil lakes, the vast and wondrous land of the imagination is also filled with hidden, murky wells and shadowy corners, trap doors and quicksand; that the lines between reality and fantasy, between the Tailypo and the woodsman, are hopelessly tangled and blurred; that fear is a force to be reckoned with.
The Tailypo eventually gave way (along with the polyester suits and aviation worthy lapels) to my sister’s Alfred Hitchcock magazines, those grainy-paged gems with stories about old widows who pull up the heads of corpses while weeding the vegetable garden, and girls like Jenny Green Teeth, who rises out of the slime that drowned her to pull in a new friend every now and then. (Jenny Green Teeth became such a fixture of terror in my young mind that on a family vacation, when I saw that our hotel room had a green-hued painting hanging above my bed, I begged to change beds with my sister so that Jenny wouldn’t come for me in the middle of the night).
Then Jenny led me to Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James, and the gothic masters who would continue to shape and subvert the landscape of my imaginary lands. And across those lands, the Tailypo still lurks.
Did the old man imagine the Tailypo returning for him, his fear (and a possible bad case of indigestion) taking on a life of its own? How did his entire cabin end up destroyed in the end, the woodsman and his dogs vanished without a trace? Where did they go, and for that matter, what happened to the Tailypo? Did he ever get his tail back—or is he still out there, waiting to come inside? The unanswered questions; those blurred, tangled lines; the shadowy spaces and murky depths where strange creatures live.
Keep your eye on that odd little kid lingering in the shelves of the Children’s Section. Maybe he or she is the kind of kid who stares a little too long at trees and carpet patterns, looking for the faces that look back; maybe he or she hears music in thunderstorms and secrets in the wind. Chances are that kid will reach for the strange-looking book with an odd creature on the front, and a future dark and strange fiction writer is born…
VERLAND BY B.E. SCULLY
B.E. Scully writes tales dark and strange, drinks red wine and murky beer, cooks, reads, studies, and believes in the golden key. Scully lives in a haunted red house that lacks a foundation in the misty woods of Oregon with a variety of human and animal companions. Scully's short story collection The Knife and the Wound It Deals
is currently available on Amazon and other fine venues along with the critically acclaimed gothic thriller Verland: the Transformation
. Other published work, interviews, and odd scribblings can be found at www.bescully.com
She is also a co-editor at Firbolg Publishing
, run by Alex Scully, the same sister responsible for warping young minds with Alfred Hitchcock and decadent rock and roll music. Still at it after all these years--Long Live Jenny and the Tailypo! Come on over and warp your own mind a bit at www.firbolgpublishing.com
DARK MUSES SPOKEN SILENCES
True crime writer Elle Bramasol is drawn into a macabre mystery when incarcerated Hollywood producer Eliot Kingman asks her to write a book about his case. As she delves deeper into Kingman's murder conviction, she discovers that he possesses a centuries old diary written by an elusive vampire named Verland. Uncovering the transformative secrets held within the diary's pages, Elle is drawn deeper into both Kingman's deadly schemes and Verland's dark world of shadows. When the two finally collide, the stage is set for a climactic battle over mankind's ultimate prize: eternal triumph over death. But will the Holy Grail of immortality turn out to be the cruelest curse of all?
Exploring the allure of the shadowy places between life and death, between fantasy and reality, and the ultimate power of belief, Verland: The Transformation
is a gothic-inspired tour de force, a brooding return to the roots of the vampire genre that goes for the throat from page one until the final, bone-chilling climax.PURCHASE A COPY HERE
Some of the most enduring masterpieces of Gothic fiction are as intriguing for the stories they don't tell as for those they do. The voices hidden in the wall of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Black Cat;
" the secrets buried beneath the earth of Sleepy Hollow in Washington Irving's legendary Headless Horseman tale; the dreams of a monster and an ancient book with a life of its own in H.P. Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulhu;"
and stories that reveal Polidori's hypnotic, archetypal Vampyre
as far more than what he first appears to be. In Firbolg Publishing'
s third volume in the Enter at Your Own Risk
series, ten modern storytellers reimagine the mysterious characters lurking within four classics of Gothic literature. As you read the original stories, a sinister whisper drifts in on a cold chill. But there are other voices beneath the whisper. You can hear them crawling out of the growing darkness. Then the whispers become a scream...
With an introduction from acclaimed author Gary Braunbeck, Dark Muses, Spoken Silences
invites you into the hidden shadows of four of the most famous dark fiction tales ever told. PURCHASE A COPY HERE
Thirteen tales of gothic terror, chilling suspense, and uncanny occurrences, The Knife and the Wound It Deals leaves no strange stone unturned in the journey down the extreme and disturbing pathways of the human psyche. The subtly shocking opening story introduces the terrible monsters that can determine our fate, from external realities like death and time to internal demons like madness, lust, and revenge. With a diverse range of settings, subjects, and themes, this collection connects the traditions of the gothic past to our equally disturbing present: a murder victim who refuses to stay buried; a World War II era wedding dress with a score to settle; the defeat and strange triumphs of death and bodily decay; a routine operation that reveals a horrifying secret world; an ancient burial ground that unearths a most bizarre set of corpses; the compulsions and consequences of desire, ambition, and dread… The Knife and the Wound It Deals
—a dark and disturbing exploration of the lurid obsessions, strange twists of fate, and mysterious forces that haunt our darkest midnight hours, plus a sneak preview of B.E. Scully’s controversial new novel All Things Truly Wicked.PURCHASE A COPY HERE