Zero Hour! Halloween 2014 — The Emperess Cicada


This third offering, from Episodes from the Zero Hour! Managing Editor Jason Butkowski, is loosely tied to his Rex Rockwell: Weird Game Hunter series of short stories.  For more on the adventures of Rex Rockwell, Weird Game Hunter, check out EZH Volume 3: Weird Game Hunter, available now, and look for more Rex Rockwell adventures in the Weird Tales from the Zero Hour! anthology, coming soon.

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The Emperess Cicada

by: Jason Butkowski

FROM THE DESK OF GEORGE THADDEUS CROMLEY, Ph.D, TO THE ESTEEMED COLONEL REX ROCKWELL

My dear friend,

I know that it has been far too long since our last communication. My work, unfortunately, leaves little time for idle correspondence; as does your own. However, I have recently come across a matter of interest, and given our shared affection for stories of the strange and unusual, I thought you would enjoy hearing this one.

In many of the native traditions of the indigenous peoples of the American colonies, there exists a peculiar legend about the end of the world. As most aboriginal legends tend to be associated with the natural order of things, this one is no exception. Continue reading

Zero Hour! Halloween 2014 — Pegs


Jonathan Elliott is an old friend of Episodes from the Zero Hour! who served as an editor on EZH! Volume 3: Weird Game Hunter.  His story, “Circular Logic” will appear in the upcoming Weird Tales from the Zero Hour! anthology.

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Pegs

by: Jonathan Elliott

It’s hard to slip into a space not meant for you. Like one of those children’s toys, with the solid sheet of wood with holes in it and a bunch of blocky shapes to correspond to each hole. Pressure and pain and resistance and splinters teach us very early on what happens when the pudgy little pyramid meets an opening meant for the fat cube. But as we get older, we learn the virtues and potency of force and grease and compromise, and somehow, the shapes work their ways on through the spaces we’ve got, appropriate or otherwise.

This is how we get what we want. This is how I get what I want. This is why she is in front of me now. It began downstairs at a gorgeous new bar in Asbury Park, patterned after that French film, “The Red Balloon.” Nothing but dark woods and flights of fancy and classy fonts all mish-mashed together, tinted in a little bit of crimson and scented in assorted varieties of chocolate. She found me. This is different, and I am off-balance, because I am very good at doing the finding. Sometimes the nights end in misery and rejection, and sometimes I locate a lady who is willing and waiting for me, and what you might imagine would happen does, indeed, happen, and we go our separate ways. Continue reading

Zero Hour! Halloween 2014 — Slow Burn


Halloween has arrived!

It’s no secret… at Episodes from the Zero Hour!, Halloween reigns supreme above all other holidays.  It’s the time of year when we give license to our darkest imaginations to bring forth their worst, in service of the scare.  It’s the holiday during which we dare the ghosts and goblins to slink out of the shadows of our own fearful minds, to prove that the world isn’t as rational and logical and safe as we had hoped.  And that makes for some great storytelling.

Each year, we strive to bring you our Episodes from the Zero Hour! Trick ‘R Treat Halloween short stories.  This year, we gave our writers the freedom to write whatever they wanted, so long as it was scary or otherwise related to Halloween.  We’ve got some Zero Hour! veterans in the mix, as well as some fresh faces who have contributed their own tales of horror.  We hope you enjoy, and if you do, please let our writers know in the comments section of their short story posts.

Happy Halloween!

-Episodes from the Zero Hour!

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Our first offering is from Episodes from the Zero Hour! Managing Editor Jason Butkowski.

Slow Burn

by: Jason Butkowski

The world was going to shit.

I know every generation says the same thing. My parents, in their time, said it. My grandparents said it. But this time, it was actually happening. The human race had reached the end of its rope, the foot was on the accelerator, and the space between the car and the cliff was getting smaller and smaller by the moment.

It started innocuously enough. One or two fucked up stories in the news. Half-naked cannibals in Florida… the newscasters said it was because the assailant was on “bath salts.” First time I ever heard the term. Then some humans doing downright inhuman things in Jersey. Relatives, family friends, savagely attacking and killing children. Bad weed, according to police reports.

You see, people were shocked, and then they moved on. We all had our problems. As long as the drug-addled psychos didn’t bother us, we thought we didn’t have to pay any of it much attention.

But then things started getting bad for everybody.

Continue reading

They’re Coming to Get You, Barbara… Zero Hour! Halloween 2014 Flash Fiction Challenge


What’s up, Toga Zombie? And what’s going on with Zombie Jerry Lewis in Boxer Shorts?

So, if you’ve been coming to this site for a little while, you know we’re a bit bonkers about Halloween. And why not? Halloween is a holiday of infinite possibilities, in which the dead can roam the Earth with the living, in which ghouls and goblins are made manifest by overactive imaginations, in which vampires and witches prowl the night in search of tasty treats, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria. It is a holiday during which we may engage in our most primal of emotions — fear — and either conquer it or succumb to it. You can’t really say the same for Arbor Day, can you? (well, I suppose you can, if you’re dendrophobic…)

One of my favorite Episodes from the Zero Hour! traditions is the annual Halloween Short Story. It’s a chance for our creators to let loose and participate in the pure art of storytelling, while poking at the weird bits that coagulate at the edge of the Zero Hour! universe. It’s also a chance for me to revisit what got me into writing in the first place. Continue reading

Tis the Season…


Santa Knuckles

Greetings, patient readers!

We’re still putting the finishing touches on the latest Episodes from the Zero Hour! book (surprise!), but while we do so, we’ve got a Small Business Saturday / Cyber Monday deal to help you give the gift of reading this holiday season! Now through Monday, save 20% on all books and 10% on all stationery at the Episodes from the Zero Hour! online bookstore — http://www.lulu.com/zerohour.

If you’ve been looking for an excuse to pick up our back catalog, now’s the time to buy! And in addition to supporting us, please make sure you visit some of our friendly neighborhood bookstores who’ve always opened their doors to us in the past, like Paranormal Books and Curiosities and Words! in Asbury Park, NJ and Farley’s Books in New Hope, PA.

Thanks, and hope to have news on the new book front soon!

-The Zero Hour! Team

The Wolves of Omaha


taxisofomaha

By Anthony Schiavino

Wind currents buffeted the flying fortress’s wings. Four engines drinking in deep, one last shot, before facing certain doom. Inside the cargo bay, soldiers prayed with their rifles in hand as the fuselage rattled, threatening to tear itself apart and plummet into the drink. Under the cover of a billowing mass, they approached a fortified coast high above but not out of reach. Flak exploded outside of the thin glass, shaking the plane harder with blunt force intensity. The cabin lit up by tracers closing in.

One of the soldiers made the sign of the cross. “You going to be able to handle the door?” he shouted, straining to be heard across the cargo bay.

The other vomited in his helmet before wiping his mouth on his sleeve. With his pallor still ripe, he said, “I’ll get it done. Don’t worry about me.” Another wave of nausea crested.

“Two minutes until dead drop!” shouted the co-pilot through the cockpit door.

The light came on, bathing the soldiers in a blood-red haze. Both of the men stood up and hooked their safety lines onto the rod above. The bay doors opened as they made their way down, slowly approaching the cage.

Continue reading….

The Wolves of Omaha © 2013 Anthony Schiavino
Taxis to hell – and back photograph © 1944 Robert F. Sargent

Zero Hour! 2013 Halloween Hub:: Werewolf Flash Fiction Challenge


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It’s that time of year again! Time to gorge on pumpkin-spiced everything and your kids’ Halloween candy, and check out this year’s Episodes from the Zero Hour! Trick ‘R Treat offerings!

We’re doing things a little differently than in past years. In the past, you’d get one story to sate your Halloween appetite, and then it was time to move on to the next house. This year, we set it up as a flash fiction challenge, and put the call out to pulp writers near and far. We can guarantee at least two fantastic stories (Jay’s and Anthony’s — hope you think they’re fantastic too!) and hopefully more to roll in throughout the day!

This year’s theme is werewolves. Why werewolves? Well, from a logistical standpoint, it made sense… We hadn’t done werewolf fiction before. But also, there’s something primal and scary about the wolf legends, losing out to your animalistic urges, unable to control yourself by the full moon, but otherwise, looking and acting like everybody else. Zombies, you can spot from a good distance away. Vampires, if you know the signs, you can spot one of those, too. But werewolves? They can be any one of us, and we might not even know it…

Last week, we laid out the ground rules for the challenge. If you’d like to enter a story, post the first three or four paragraphs below, with a link to the site where your original is posted. If you’re just here as a reader, we encourage you to reply to the story comments and interact with the writers… They love that s$&t.

Let the games begin! And Happy Halloween!

-Jay and Anthony
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We’ll get things started with a story from Episodes from the Zero Hour! Managing Editor Jason Butkowski below:

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Too soon. It was all happening too soon, too fast.

He forced himself forward, trying to push beyond the pain welling up inside his body, but it was simply no use. His legs buckled as the first shock wave hit him in the stomach before creeping through his extremities. He collapsed in a heap and rolled over onto his back, staring skyward, pleading for mercy. The light from the full moon broke through the canopy above, mocking him for his foolishness. As if he could have outrun the curse…

As the pain coursed through his body, he tried to remember what it was like before all this had started. It had been seven months since that night with the damn gypsy witch. They had both been so young and stupid. The next morning, he got up to leave, and that’s when she condemned him to his fate with her strange hex. He wrote it off as the ranting of a jilted, superstitious lunatic. Transformation by the light of the full moon? Utter nonsense. But then that first full moon came, and, well… he quickly became a convert.

The throbbing behind his eyes made it hard to focus. Have to stay in control. Have to keep my wits.

Continue reading

The Fault of the Flesh © 2013 Jason Butkowski
“The Witches” photograph © 2013 Kelly Anne Milo, KanneMilo Photography