“In the Wardrobe” is the story by our next Author Spotlight contributor to A Darke Phantastique, Nickolas Furr. Here’s a sneak peak:
Lord Butler-Graham leaned on his walking-stick, hand over hand, his knuckles rolling beneath scarred skin as he shifted his weight. The lamps glowed dimly, casting shadows about the room. A few dozen of the club’s gentlemen sat on plush Chesterfields and oversized chairs, some in light, some in shadow. No one else stood, though Lord Parkington leaned against a high table, his Meerschaum producing smoke as a locomotive produced steam. Butler-Graham cocked his head toward Parkington and nodded. They were both peers and two of the few dressed in correct black-tie fashion. As for the others . . . the Challenger’s Club accepted them as they were, even in casual dress. Englishmen of different strata of birth and society had traveled the empire for centuries. A few of them had the misfortune of experiencing the horrors of the supernatural. Those who survived often found themselves in the West End, seeking entrance to Challenger’s.
Sir Giles Mabrey guided two Italian laborers through the center of the room, avoiding the furniture and the members’ shoes. Between them, they carried a tall, heavy object wrapped in a rug and bound with tarred rope. It took them half a minute to reach the antechamber’s locked door. Sir Giles produced a brass key from a ring and unlocked it. He stepped aside and waved them through. Aside from the Italians’ heavy tread and occasional grunt, the room was silent.
Where do those crazy ideas come from?
As a child, I suffered nightmares—repeated nightmares. I’ve never known what glitch existed that caused me to throw open the doors of my subconscious to let bedtime terrors wander freely around within, but over time I became accustomed to their presence. As an adult, I’ve continued to suffer from them. But as I age, I realize I remember them less and less. Either I’ve quit having as many or I’ve grown used to them. I tend to think the latter, since I occasionally wake and have that brief echo of memory about something awful happening—something that, it appears, entertained the hell out of me.
One night, years ago, my girlfriend heard me giggling and cackling in my sleep while I thrashed around. Worried, she shook me awake and asked what was going on.
“I’m killing demons in hell!” I told her. “With a shotgun!” And with that, I went right back to sleep.
Demons, hell, the Westboro Baptist Church—these are the elements of nightmares for adults. We grow used to them, and maybe even we grow a bit inured to them.
It’s the nightmares of the youngest children that we can never quite get away from. When I was in my first few years of elementary school—and even earlier, I had two nightmares that plagued me. One was the “. . . Giant Godzilla-creature is chasing me and I can’t get away.” The other was “There’s something in the closet—and it’s watching me.”
There’s something primal in the idea that something is hiding, watching us, from a place that should be ours. It’s our closet, our bureau, our wardrobe. It’s the place where we
store our outer layer, our clothes, but it’s become a hideyhole from something outside the universe.
“In the Wardrobe” has been through several vastly different iterations, with literally nothing being the same, except the idea that someone believes that something is watching us from dark corners of our bedroom. But it wasn’t until this last version that I was satisfied with the concept But I knew I wanted the setting to be a bit out of the ordinary. Originally, the different versions had all been set in modern America. Some settings were unimportant. Others were defined—Southern California, New Mexico, Kansas. I knew I needed something more than a setting. I needed a place. So with that idea in mind, I decided to reach back to two different times and across the ocean to a rural, country setting where the primal lurks much closer to consciousness than we’d like to admit.
And sometimes, it seems to be close enough to watch us at night, while we sleep.
Nickolas Furr is a former freelance writer who for years scribbled away at short stories and a still-unfinished novel in between paid writing gigs and real jobs—jobs as disparate as managing group homes, driving a taxi, and nightclub bouncing. But it was only recently that he began to take writing seriously. In 2011, he returned to college for the first time in twenty-five years. Since then, as a college reporter he has earned dozens of individual and shared awards for his work with the Southwestern College Sun. In 2013, the Associated Collegiate Press named him Reporter of the Year for all two-year colleges in the United States. As a fiction writer, he prefers to work in the fields of dark fantasy and psychological horror. He has made a few professional sales and hopes to continue on that path, while still working as a journalist. Originally from the American South, he now resides in Imperial Beach, California, with his girlfriend, Liza, and their dog, Adam.