📅 Published on February 8, 2022


Written by Dan Weatherer
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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In some ways, it is terrifying to imagine just how close the town of Marchington came to obliteration by the tentacles of a demonic cephalopod.


It was finished.  Months of toil had finally given way to Marty’s latest masterpiece.  Of his eighteen novels to date, this was to be his finest.  If eighty thousand words detailing the horrific exploits of a demonic octopus, residing in a quiet, seaside aquarium, didn’t announce the arrival of Martin Murderstorm (his pen-name of choice) on the international horror stage, then he was convinced that nothing would.  Old One Offspring was to be his magnum opus.

Of course, Marty had held the same belief upon completion of his previous seventeen self-published novels.  His bestseller to date, the aptly titled Number Cruncher, a story about a murderer who only targeted chartered accountants, had sold six copies.  The rest of his back catalog had not fared nearly so well.

Yet Marty’s belief in his work never faltered.  Though his girlfriend had left him, and his parents had kicked him out of their basement, still he clung to the dream of one day becoming a best-selling horror author.

He checked his watch.

1:23 am.

Just enough time to fire out a few quick emails to the agents that had taken the time to reject his previous works.  He loaded up his usual email template and set to work.

Dear (insert name here),

My name is Martin Muderstorm, and I am the savior of horror.

Don’t believe me?  Then treat your eyes to (insert title here), which is my latest tale of dread.

It’s about (enter spine chilling description here), and it will blow your mind!

I hope that we can work together.

Yours confidently,

Martin Murderstorm.


With all thirty-two of his agent contacts emailed, Marty closed the laptop, fixed himself a glass of warm milk and climbed into his single bed.

* * * * * *

On opening his inbox the following morning, Marty was greeted with thirty-two emails, all of which said the same thing—Thanks, but no thanks.

He sat for a while, blinking at the screen, unable to process what he was seeing.  He’d received rejections before and plenty of them, but they were in regards to inferior pieces.  Old One Offspring was too damn good to be rejected out of hand.  He wondered whether they had even gotten past the front cover, which featured an illustrated octopus, brooding in its tank, as couples and children pass it by, oblivious to the terror contained behind the inch of reinforced glass.  No, he thought to himself, there is no way any of them even read it, not that quickly!

As he munched his way through a half bowl of cornflakes, he worked out the beginnings of Plan B.  This book deserved to be read, and by God, was he ever going to do whatever it took to get it noticed.  It was time for a change of tact.  Every approach he had previously made had been via email.  This was the industry norm; agents expected as such, but Marty felt that perhaps this was a tad impersonal.  Each of his rejection emails contained the direct phone number to the agent disregarding his work.  Marty’s plan was simple.  He was to choose the agency he most liked the sound of, and he’d speak to them directly.

After much pondering, he decided upon McCluster and Luster, as it was the name that he liked the best, and dialed their head office.

“Good morning, McCluster and Luster,” said a cheery female voice on the other end of the phone.  “Ruth speaking.  How may I direct your call?”

Marty took a deep breath.  “Good morning, Ruth.  I was wondering, could I speak to Mr. McCluster, please?  Or Mr. Luster; I don’t mind which one, really—whoever is free will do.”

“That won’t be possible, I’m afraid.  Mr. McCluster died of Polio in 1928, and Mr. Luster fell from a train in 1935.  They founded the company in 1919; they don’t actually work here.”

“Ah,” gulped Marty.  “It didn’t say that on the website.”

“No, it probably doesn’t—I doubt many companies include the details of their founders’ deaths as part of their online information.  Some would deem the approach distasteful,” replied Ruth, some of her initial cheeriness lost.  “Is there anybody else that you might wish to speak to?”

“Yes—yes, bear with me two seconds.” Marty scrolled through his emails until he located the one needed.  “Could you pass me through to Mr. Alan Chambers then, please?”

“And who shall I say is calling?”

“Martin Murderstorm.”

The sound of a muffled laugh quickly cut into the jazz piece that the company had chosen as its hold music.  After a minute of lazy snares and wailing saxophones, Alan Chambers spoke:

“Hello, Mr. Murderstorm?” He sounded weary and in desperate need of coffee.

“Yes, that’s me.  Thank you for taking my call.  Good morning—”

“What is it that you want?” interrupted Alan.  “I’ve a busy morning ahead, and I’d prefer if we cut directly to the chase.”

“Certainly, of course.  It’s about my book Old One Offspring…”

“Ah yes,” sighed Alan.  “The possessed Octopus.”

“You read it?  Wait—he wasn’t possessed, he was the son of—”

“I read the blurb and decided to pass.  Look, the truth is we have far too many authors like you on our books anyway.  We simply don’t have the time or resources to pick up another writer.”

Marty had been prepared for this response as it was the one that cropped up most regularly in his email rejections.  “If you ask me, this seems to be an issue with all agents, don’t you think?  Tell me, if you always have full lists, then how does somebody new get onto your books?”

The line fell silent for a moment as Alan pondered how best to answer.  “Well…I imagine that when one of our authors retires from writing, that potentially frees up space for somebody new.  In theory, anyway.”

Marty’s eyes widened.  “That’s all I needed to know, Mr. Chambers.  Thank you for your time.”

“No prob—”

Marty slammed the phone down and turned to his laptop.  He clicked on the list of clients that McCluster and Luster represented and began to read.

* * * * * *

Clarice Huntingdon closed the front cover and handed the book back to the elderly lady who stood in front of her.  The book signing had seen a poor turnout, and although Checkley was her hometown, she had lowered her expectations accordingly.  Now in the twilight of her career and with nearly thirty books on horticulture to her name, the longest-serving author on McCluster and Luster’s books was bored.  Her passion for writing had withered long ago, and the draw of her celebrity as a local artist had started to wane.

“There you go, and thank you for coming in to see me today.  I appreciate you making the journey out.”

“Oh, it’s no bother,” replied the woman who had given her name as Ethel.  I was in town anyway; I had to get some milk, and I saw your sign in the window.  I didn’t even know who you were until I saw your picture!  I have read all of your books at one time or another.  Tell me, which perennials can I plant in the shade?  All the ones I try seem to need sun.”

Clarice rubbed her temples.  This was a question that she was asked on an almost daily basis and one she answered in every book.  “Chapter four will sort that little quandary out for you,” said Clarice with a forced smile.

“And slugs?  I’m forever battling with slugs.”

“Chapter eight for slugs.”

Ethel thanked her once again and waddled out into the high street, leaving Clarice, the bookstore attendant and the young man who had spent the last half hour flicking through her back catalog, alone in the bookstore.

“Can I sign one of those for you?” offered Clarice.

The man placed the book that he was reading back onto the bookshelf and hurried out of the door.

I’ll take that as a no, then.

Clarice took a sip from her silver hip flask and returned her attention to her crossword puzzle.

* * * * * *

It was raining by the time Clarice had packed her unsold copies of Great Flowers of England into her wheeled trolley and started the walk home.  She vowed to herself that she would not attend any more book signings and would push any future sales online.  She had seen the lines to meet her gradually dwindle into nothing, and this had slowly chipped away at both her desire to write and her self-confidence.  As the rain fell harder, she quickened her pace across the cobbled streets, the squeak of her trolley wheels drowning out the sound of the footsteps that followed quickly behind her.

She had not long taken off her coat when Clarice heard the knock on the door.  Stood before her, sodden with rain, was the man who had fled the bookstore earlier.  He smiled at her.  “Clarice Huntingdon?”

“Yes, but I don’t do doorstep signings, sonny.  I asked you earlier and—”

“I need your slot,” said the man.

“You need my slot?” repeated Clarice, confused.

“Yes,” said the man with a smile.  Then, in one smooth movement, the man took a pistol from his pocket and shot Clarice in the face.

* * * * * *

The phone was answered within three rings.  “Alan Chambers.” “Hi, Alan, it’s Marty.  How’s it going?”

“Marty?” replied Alan as he moved to hang up, “I don’t recall anyone by that name, sorry.”

“Marty Murderstorm, the author of Old One Offspring, listen…”

“Ah. Mr. Murderstorm,” sighed Alan, suddenly disinterested.

“I heard about Clarice Huntingdon,” began Marty.  “Terrible business…”

“Ah yes, yes it was.  We are all deeply saddened by her untimely death.”

“To be gunned down on her doorstep like that, awful just awful,” continued Marty. “What was it—a gang hit?”


“I mean, you hear about them all the time…who knows what she was into, who she owed money to…”

“Of course it wasn’t a gang hit!” replied Alan, “She wrote books on bloody shrubs! Hardly the type to be linked to hardened criminals!  Look, is there a point to this call?”

Marty smiled.  Straight to business, he liked that quality in Alan.  “Yes, of course.  Well, I was wondering, now you are an author light, perhaps you’d have space to add me to your roster?”

There followed a long and uneasy silence before Alan finally spoke.  “Mr. Murderstorm, I hardly think that now is the appropriate time to discuss such matters, do you?  One of our longest-serving authors—”

“The longest-serving,” interrupted Marty.

“…the longest-serving author on our books was murdered in cold blood.  Any notion of replacing her is so far removed from my mind as to be unimaginable.  Now, if you will excuse me.”

The line went dead, and Marty hung up.  It seemed to him that the shock of losing one author was not going to be enough for him to force his claim to be added to their client list and that further culling was to be required.

* * * * * *

Over the following months, the client list of McCluster and Luster decreased by a further twelve as more authors continued to turn up dead.  There was the award-winning crime novelist Horace Whitter, whose car had left the road at high speed and ended up at the bottom of a ravine.  Romance writer Carol Shucker was found crumpled at the bottom of a public stairwell, her neck broken.  Then there was the acclaimed fantasy author Greg Mayden, who was found floating in Lake Windermere after going missing during a fishing trip.  At first, it was assumed that their deaths were accidental, but as the number of dead writers soared, so did the attention of the media, and it was declared that a serial killer was at large, one that solely preyed upon successful authors.  The press quickly labeled the killer as “The Author Offer.

* * * * * *

Marty was on hold.  Alan Chambers was refusing to take his calls, and so while a jazz rendition of The Right Stuff entertained him, the receptionist at McCluster and Luster frantically searched for somebody to take his call.

“Miley Wilson,” spoke a voice tinged with apprehension.

“Ah, at last!  Thanks for taking my call.  My name is…”

“Yes, I know who you are, Mr. Murderstorm.  You are quite the persistent caller by all accounts.  How can I help you today?”

Marty launched into his sales patter.  “Picture this, a bold and terrifying tale about how maggots that fell to earth from space are reanimating the dead…what do you think?”

Miley sighed.  “So, you mean to write a zombie novel?”

“Not just any zombie novel…THE zombie novel!  You see, it’s all about the maggots—from space—they are radioactive and bring the dead back to life while they feast on them, sort of like tiny puppet masters.  Do you see?”

“I see a zombie novel.  Another zombie novel.”

“But this one is different because of the mag—”

“The maggots, yes I know,” said Miley, interrupting.  “Look, the major problem with your genre of choice is that horror is kind of already taken.  And what I mean by that is you have Simon Dukes, who almost has the entire horror audience to himself.  I’m afraid there’s just no room for someone with your, erm…talent.”

Simon Dukes was a master of dark fiction.  Crowned The Duke of Horror, he had penned such greats as Cassie, The Shimmering and That.  His novel count stretched into the high thirties, and his work had inspired a generation of authors and filmmakers alike.  When it came to market dominance, it was the Duke who sat at the top of the horror tree.

“So you see,” Miley continued, “You are always going to be up against him, and frankly, nobody with an interest in horror reads anyone but him.  You are a no-go, I’m afraid.  Perhaps try your hand at fan fiction and self-pub-”

Marty hung up.  He had heard enough.  There was no way he was going to lower himself to writing fan-fiction for a living.  He had a heart for horror, a dark heart that beat with a defiant thud!  If the Duke was stifling all of the competition, perhaps it was time to stifle the Duke.

* * * * * *

Simon Dukes was a tall, slight, bespectacled man.  If you didn’t know your horror, and you passed him on the street, you could easily mistake him for someone worthy of little note.  To look at his outward appearance is to miss the might of the person, for within him worked an imagination so vivid that he had been cited as the greatest storyteller of the modern age. Simon was happy with that accolade and quietly continued to churn out a steady stream of novels.  Some of his critics argued that his best stories had already been told, but a book with his name on the cover was a guaranteed sell, and talk of unit sales soon hushed any mutterings of a loss of form.

There came a knock on his study door followed by the entrance of his personal assistant, Grace.  “Sorry to interrupt, Simon.  I’ve an English journalist on the phone wanting to talk to you?”

Simon closed his laptop and took off his glasses.  Even without them, he could tell that Grace looked fabulous today.  “What’s the name?”

“Ernest Gumall.  Does that name sound familiar?”

Simon shook his head.  “No.  How did he get my number?”

“No idea,” shrugged Grace, “but he’s pushing for an interview.  He gave me a list of credentials a mile long; I can check them out if you like?”

“No, it’s okay.  Pass them to me.  I’ll have a look through.  English, you say?  I’ve got a book release coming up soon; couldn’t hurt to get my face in the UK press again.”

Grace nodded.  “It is a little quiet on the promotional front; shall I arrange a phone call?”

“Have him come over here.  If he is legit, his agency won’t mind the airfare.  Say next Wednesday, 11:00 AM.”

Grace nodded again and disappeared into her office.  Something about the name of the journalist irked Simon.  It swam in and out of his consciousness, vying for his attention. Perhaps Ernest, the English journalist, could meet a grisly end in my next book? Recognizing this to be the seed of an idea, he closed the news site that he had been reading. After all, the last thing he wanted on his mind when trying to write was the news that there was a serial killer at large who only targeted successful authors.

* * * * * *

Marty knocked on the large, oak double doors and waited.  The house was bigger than he had imagined; photographs taken from the fringes of the property and posted online really did not convey the sheer size of the place.  This was a man who had truly made a success of his writing.  Marty shook the fuzz from his head and popped a handful of caffeine pills into his mouth.  The flight had been long, and he knew he needed his wits about him if he was to kill the Duke in his own home.

The door opened, and there stood Simon Dukes, wearing a beige jumper and a pair of black sweatpants.  “Mr. Gumall, I presume?”

Marty swallowed the pills and thrust his hand towards the man in the black sweatpants who denied him the chance of literary greatness.  “Indeed, indeed…call me Ernie, please! Wow, Simon Dukes is shaking my hand!  Who’d have thought it?”

Simon withdrew his hand and regarded the journalist.  “Who, indeed?  Please, come in.” Ernie pushed past Simon and entered the grand hallway.  “This way, please,” said Simon, frowning.  “We’ll conduct the interview in my study if that’s okay?”

“Of course,” said Marty, taking in his lavish surroundings, “wherever you feel most comfortable.  Tell me, are you in alone?”

“As it happens, I am,” replied Simon, and he ushered Marty into his study.  “My PA is in town; she should be back shortly after lunch.” Simon took a seat behind his desk and folded his hands together.  “Are you ready to begin?”

“Sure am,” replied Marty.

Simon shot Marty a puzzled look.  “Are you sure?  You don’t seem to have a notepad or anything to hand.”

“It, erm…it all goes in here,” said Marty tapping his head.  “I’ve an excellent memory. Don’t worry; I’ll get it all word for word.”

Simon smiled.  “If you say so.  Where shall I begin?  Did you have any questions in mind? Perhaps relating to my new book?”

Marty’s eyes darted around the office, looking for a quick escape.  His stomach had knotted, and he suddenly felt sick.  Being in the presence of greatness had made him unsure of himself.  This wasn’t an old dear who wrote about pansies for a living…this was The Duke.  All the plans he had made in his head on the flight over about how to kill Simon bled and muddied into one another. Now he wasn’t sure he wanted to kill him, never, never mind if he even could.  “Sure, sure, tell me about that…” said Marty, his voice hoarse.

Simon stood, the smile disappearing from his face.  “You seem a little nervous.  Tell you what; I’ll fix you something to drink.  How does that sound?”

Marty nodded and realized that he was sweating.  “Just a water, please.”

“Coming up.  I’ll be right back.”

As the door closed behind Simon, Marty grabbed at his tie and loosened it.  I can hardly breathe in here; what’s the matter with me?  The office was large and airy, with a window that overlooked a vast front lawn and an extravagant water fountain.  The wall to the left of him was lined with books.  He noted with disappointment that none of his titles numbered among them.

Simon returned carrying a glass of water which he handed to Marty.  “Try that.  It should fix you right up.”

“Cheers,” said Marty taking a sip.  “Bottoms up!”

Simon smiled as he retook his seat and turned his attention to his laptop screen.  “So, I did a little digging around online to see who you had written about previously…”

“Oh?” said Marty, suddenly feeling light-headed.

“It seems that I am your first real interview, Mr. Gumall.  Would that be correct?”

Marty tried to raise his hand, but the effort was beyond him.  His head dropped, and his chin rested on his chest.  That’s not so!  Is what he wanted to say, but what emerged from his throat was a low groaning sound.  Simon rose from his chair and grabbed Marty by the hair, forcing his head backward.  He leaned in close and whispered, “I know who you are.”  That was the last thing Marty had heard before he blacked out.

* * * * * *

The sound of humming and beeping filled Marty’s head as he gently came to.  His eyes fluttered open, and he found himself looking up at a fluorescent light, which hurt his eyes and his head.  To his left sat a monitor that was the source of the incessant noise.  It seemed to be recording his vital signs, though as he watched the thin green line trace peaks and troughs on the tiny LCD screen, Marty was confused as to why that might be.  He tried to sit up, but a great pressure on his chest and arms prevented him from doing so.  His head felt as though it was full of cotton wool, and he had begun to notice a dull ache in his groin.

He heard a door open to his right and turned his head to see Simon enter the room.  There were no windows and only one door.  Marty’s pulse quickened, and the monitor beeped and chirped, noting his rising fear.  He tried to speak, but his tongue felt fat and heavy.

“Awake at last, I see!” began Simon.  “I guess the procedure took it out of you!  Mind you, it did take much longer than I had at first anticipated.”

Marty tried to speak again but could only manage a nonsensical, guttural noise.

“I guess that’s the thing with research…until you do something for yourself, you will never know how long something like that takes or indeed, what emotions it inspires within you.”

The door to Marty’s right opened again, and he heard a female voice, light and matter of fact.  “He survived the procedure, then?”

“Yes, he did!  You did a great job bandaging him up!” replied Simon.  “Honestly, I thought we’d lost him, what with the amount of blood he pumped out onto the floor!”

“If you need any suturing or IV packs, give me a shout, okay?”

“Of course, Grace.  Thank you!”

Marty heard the door close and the retreat of rapid heeled footsteps.  After lingering upon the door for a while, Simon returned his attention to the screen monitoring Marty’s vital signs. “Yes, you are doing quite well…considering.”

Marty’s groin pain increased sharply, and he let out a mournful cry.

“Oh, you want to know what I’ve done to you?  I suppose you are aware enough to appreciate my labor now.  Hold on…” said Simon disappearing out of the room.

He returned moments later carrying two large, badly wrapped pieces of bloodied meat. “You see, I figured out who you are,” continued Simon.  He placed one of the hunks of meat onto the floor and began to unwrap the other.  “That’s the thing about writing horror…you see things in people that most don’t.  Of course, I checked your non-existent credentials, and I saw the reports on the internet.”  He paused and looked at Marty.  “You are the killer who targets authors, am I right?”

Marty tried to protest his innocence, but his tongue still refused to work.  The pain in his groin had become so intense he was close to blacking out again.  Simon continued with the unwrapping of the meat.  “No matter, I know it was you.  I had to take certain measures to contain you; I hope you forgive me.  One cannot be too careful with a killer in the house!” As the last of the wrapping fell to the floor, Simon held up the meat for Marty to see.

It was a leg—one of Marty’s legs.

Marty’s cries caught in his throat.  His heart thundered, and his groin screamed.  Simon tossed the leg aside and leaned in close.  “It’s amazing what you can accomplish with a hacksaw and a bit of effort.  You won’t believe this, but the blade cut through bone as though it were butter!  But this does mean that you won’t be going anywhere now.  Nobody knows you are here, and nobody is going to miss you.  I’ve done the world a favor keeping you here. I’m going to make an educated guess…you write, don’t you?  Blink once for no, twice for yes.”

Through a veil of sweat and tears, Marty blinked twice.

“Good, I figured as much.  Why else would you target authors who had experienced the success that you craved so dearly?” Simon placed a firm hand on Marty’s shoulder.  “Never fear, my friend… I have great plans for you…for us.”

* * * * * *

Over the next few months, Simon Dukes experienced a purple patch the likes of which no author could hope ever to emulate.  Book after the book hit the shelves, and his fans lapped them up in their thousands.  His critics were astounded, and though they did not much care for the tale of the demonic octopus that terrified visitors to a small town aquarium, nor did they appreciate another zombie novel, even if it did contain space maggots, none could argue that they were experiencing the renaissance of a true master at work.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Dan Weatherer
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Dan Weatherer

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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