If you’re a listener to Tales to Terrify on the District of Wonders Network, you’ve heard the first part of this story. My grandfather, Pop-pop, read to me when I was a kid; he perched me on his lap and read stories, poems, whatever. Not kid stuff, he was a high-octane reader of dark things, things by Lord Byron, Stevenson, the occasional Lovecraft piece, others. He was particularly fond of Poe and, until I learned better, poetry was so-called because those rhyming tales were written by Edgar Allan Poe.
Earlier though—and this may have been the first tale he told to me—he read, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.” “Listen, my children and you shall hear/Of the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere…” that one?
Longfellow's simple patriotic piece scared the pants off me and did so not only as it was being told, but the images it raised followed me into sleep and into the morning and through the light of day.
Take a look. Imagine this, steeped in a three-year-old’s ignorance, about our hero’s friend who…
“…climbed the tower of the Old North Church
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the somber rafters, that ‘round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,
--By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all…”
“Stealthy tread…belfry chamber…somber rafters…trembling ladder…moonlight flowing over all.” Imagine this as read by an old man whose glasses glowed in the porch light as crickets chirped their metallic calls and perhaps some lightning, which may have flickered over the mountain; not even to mention, the muffled oars as Paul Revere rows past the British ship in the harbor—“a phantom ship…a huge black hulk magnified/by its own reflection in the tide,” and other things of dark and night…
Well, in my head, the British are not just soldiers of a king; to three year-old me they are that which IS the darkness, creatures who swarm like shadows from this vast black hulk in the bay and march with ominous tread across the world.
As pictured, they were bigger than Pop-pop or daddy, larger even than uncle Jim. They were hulking shadow with fangs and a stench of rotted meat (why that? I don’t know but once, I smelled some hamburger that had gone off in the back of our fridge and made a stink as rotten as any monster, so...). And they grunted in the thousands as they trod the streets of the town. Our town. Of course.
In the poem, Revere rides the night, rouses the country folk and the story is over and I’m put to sleep. And still, I hear the tread of the British and see the sparks struck as Revere’s horse flies before the wind into the countryside to wake every Middlesex, village and farm and I know those sparks will breed a fire that will burn to light the night and then…
…and then I’d sleep. And sleep embraced my fears, drew them closer, turned them to dreams from which day delivered me. And even then, I’d hurry past the side hall outside my room, the dark passage that led to the darker attic where I knew they waited, those British did. And, most important, were kept in place because I knew them there. Ha!
Next story time, I’d ask for the “British one” from Pop-pop. He’d ask, “British? What story’s that?” And I’d say, “Listen my children and you shall hear.” And maybe he’d read it again. And I’d run back to the dark, past the side hall, to meet them, and the other holy terrors of tale-telling, in my dreams again where, again, they were defeated.
Later, of course, the “British” became just people. A disappointment survived.
Still, to this day, I carry inside me two versions of “the British.” In one, they are just dwellers in a lovely land in which once I lived. The other? You know what they are.
So, thank you Pop-pop. See? It's not just the story, it's the story-telling that I hope we bring to “Tales to Terrify.” And I hope you’ll become regular listeners. I hope too you’ll consider picking up a copy of “Tales to Terrify, Volume 1” when it comes out this Halloween.
May they all breed pleasant dreams.
Award-winning writer and narrator, Lawrence Santoro began writing dark tales at age five.
In 2001 his novella “God Screamed and Screamed, Then I Ate Him” was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. In 2002, his adaptation and audio production of Gene Wolfe’s “The Tree Is My Hat,” was also Stoker nominated. In 2003, his Stoker-recommended “Catching” received Honorable Mention in Ellen Datlow’s 17th Annual “Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror” anthology. In 2004, “So Many Tiny Mouths” was cited in the anthology’s 18th edition. In the 20th, his novella, “At Angels Sixteen,” from the anthology A DARK AND DEADLY VALLEY, was similarly honored.
Larry’s first novel, “Just North of Nowhere,” was published in 2007. A collection of his short fiction, DRINK FOR THE THIRST TO COME, was published in 2011. He lives in Chicago and is working on two new novels, “Griffon and the Sky Warriors,” and “A Mississippi Traveler, or Sam Clemens Tries the Water”.
Stop by Larry’s blog, At Home in Bluffton(http://blufftoninthedriftless.blogspot.com/), and his audio website, Santoro Reads (http://www.santororeads.com/Home.html), you can friend him on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/lawrence.santoro).
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You can follow the blog tour on the following dates and sites:
October, 22nd: Innsmouth Free Press
October, 23rd: Dark Wolf's Fantasy Reviews (http://darkwolfsfantasyreviews.blogspot.com/)
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October, 25th: Sci fi & Fantasy Lovin' News and Reviews (http://sqt-fantasy-sci-fi-girl.blogspot.com/)
October, 26th: Fantasy Book Critic (http://fantasybookcritic.blogspot.com/)
October, 29th: Wag the Fox (http://waggingthefox.blogspot.com/)
October, 30th: Angela Slatter (http://www.angelaslatter.com/)
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