The Phantom Cabinet Elevator Pitch
Writer: Jeremy Thompson
Publisher: Necro Publications
Buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, iBooks, or www.necropublications.com
What is The Phantom Cabinet?
From Southern California to deep space, innumerable hauntings radiate from an infanticide returnee. The living doorway between our world and the afterlife, will Douglas Stanton be able to defeat the porcelain-masked entity directing the murderous poltergeists, or will she succeed in her plan to eradicate humanity?
Why Should We Pick This Up?
Ain’t It Cool News: “A well-written and expertly arranged novel that belongs up there with any big-name horror book currently shelved in bookstores.”
The Bookie Monster: “I highly recommend this book. It is one that will keep crawling around in your mind and making you second guess what you saw out of the corner of your eye.”
Confessions of a Reviewer: “Putting it quite simply, it’s superb.”
A Slice of Horror: “Thompson is a master of dark prose.”
Loud Green Bird: “In a deceptively short narrative, he spins a fascinating tale that covers the life of the protagonist, Douglas, from birth to early adulthood. The terror and horror that he and his friends encounter are genuine and believable.”
Juniper Grove: “There is drama, conflict, good, evil all the makings of a five star read.”
Excerpt from The Phantom Cabinet :
Colliding with empty space, they watched the cosmos split before them. Celestial bodies whorled and wilted, victims of a spacetime rent asymmetrical. From the newborn crack in creation, a malignant green light belched forth. With it came the multitudes…
Later, Commander Frank Gordon sat alone on the orbiter’s flight deck. Strapped into his commander’s seat, an internally lit control panel set before him, he stared into a vast expanse filled with unfamiliar constellations. There were no planets in sight, not even a sun. His mind was fuzzy. Time passed like bad stop motion animation: everything broken and jagged.
A howl drifted up from the below decks, leaving Gordon shivering violently. He had to check on the space shuttle’s crew, he knew, but the idea brought trepidation. Since learning of Kenneth Yamamoto’s fate—the grisly spectacle in the crew module’s mid deck sleeping area—Gordon had been unable to hold rational conversations with any of the dazed spacemen populating the orbiter, had feared them worse than the voices in his head and the torment panoramas flashing behind his eyelids.
Yamamoto, the shuttle’s payload commander, was a baby-faced Asian American with carefully parted hair. Loud and enthusiastic, he’d been the last person Gordon would have suspected of suicide. Yet it appeared that the man had used vise grip pliers to pull all the teeth from his mouth, and then gouge out his own eyeballs.
Reclining within a thin cotton sleeping bag, buckled securely into his designated metal cabinet, Kenneth still clutched the pliers. The tool was dull, yet he had managed to repeatedly penetrate his abdomen before bleeding to death.
Melanie Sarnoff, the flight engineer, had alerted Gordon to the situation. She’d discovered a handful of drifting teeth on the air circulation system’s filtering screen, which served as the orbiter’s unofficial lost and found section. Investigating the disturbance further, the bovine-faced gal had stumbled upon her friend as he gasped his last breath, mouth contorted into a hideous blood rictus.
Reporting the incident, Melanie had laughed hysterically. Eyes bulging within a face ravaged by adolescent acne remnants, dirty blonde hair pulled into the tightest ponytail Gordon had ever seen, the husky no-nonsense crewmember had looked deep into his eyes and remarked, “They got him.”
Gordon hadn’t asked whom she referred to. Their hideous whispers echoed in his skull, pleading for salvation, promising damnation. They remained just outside peripheral vision, visible only through shuttered eyelids. Their mouths were dark tunnels, their eyes angry cinders.
Insane laughter, interspersed with howls of soul-rending agony, reverberated throughout his skull, churning his memories into abstract puzzle pieces, which Gordon struggled to reassemble.
Their logo patches read Conundrum, which the commander assumed was the shuttle’s name. A strange name, really. It hardly inspired the same sense of majesty as the Discovery, Challenger and Enterprise shuttles had. Of their mission, Gordon remembered little.
Sifting through broken memories, he recalled something about a mysterious transmission emanating from low earth orbit, in an area empty to all visualizations. Presumably, he and his crew had been sent to investigate the phenomenon, but he couldn’t recall any payloads being delivered or experiments being performed. Gordon was afraid to ask Peter Kent, the payload specialist, any details concerning their goals, fearing that the man would prove as addle-brained as himself.
One thing that he knew for certain was that they hadn’t launched from the Kennedy Space Center. Instead, Gordon recalled a clandestine site deep in the Chihuahaun Desert: a fenced-off area containing a launch pad scheduled for immediate demolition.
They’d blasted off with no media present. Instead of cheering crowds waving well wishes, their audience had been cacti and Creosote clusters, which could only look on indifferently.
And now communications were down—S-band and Ku-band alike—making it impossible to downlink or receive uplinked data. The Earth-based flight controllers would be no help to his crew now, and no one was currently piloting the ship. With no landmarks to follow, what was the point of a reaction control system?
Gordon rubbed his head, which he usually shaved daily, but was now covered in stubble. His thin lips compressed, threatening to disappear altogether. Reluctantly unstrapping himself from the commander’s seat, he swam without water resistance. Reaching the wall bars, he pulled himself to the ladder. Slowly, he descended, desperate to be anywhere else.
Upon reaching the mid deck, Gordon was shocked to see blood droplets floating in all directions, filling the galley to drastically restrict vision. Stray bits of cereal and partially chewed fruit chunks drifted amongst the plasma, debris that could become lodged in the orbiter’s highly sensitive equipment at any moment. He would need a vacuum from the starboard side storage lockers, to suck it all up post haste.
Climbing his way starboard, Gordon reached the waterless shower stall, where he encountered Steve Herman. Desperate for answers, the commander pulled down the stall’s privacy curtain, exposing the swarthy man’s depravities.
The mission specialist was naked, save for the Velcro-soled slippers anchoring him within the stall. His dark skin had gone grey; his unkempt hair desperately needed trimming. Blood droplets ascended from his wrists, which he continued to tear at with his teeth, apparently following Yamamoto’s example.
Noticing his superior, Herman paused his undertaking to exclaim, “Hello, Commander Gordon. Nice night, isn’t it? An eternal night, you might say.”
“Herman, just what do you think you’re doing? Is my entire crew committing suicide? Snap out of it, man!”
“No can do, boss. I’ve seen her…pulled aside that cold white mask to stare into those old dead eyes of hers. What I saw reflected in those orbs, no man should see.”
Gordon let the comment slide, as he maneuvered close enough to grab his subordinate firmly by the shoulders. “Do you remember what we were doing before the world disappeared?” he shouted. “What were our objectives?”
The mission specialist laughed faintly, consciousness ebbing in a crimson gush. “Don’t you get it? She brought us here…deep, deep into the Phantom Cabinet. She brought us here.” Unleashing a prolonged sigh, Herman definitively closed his eyes.
Gordon released the man, needing to escape his morbid proximity, however briefly. “Don’t worry, buddy,” he heard himself say. “I’ll grab a medical kit, and we’ll get you stitched and bandaged up.” He had blood in his eyes now, and rubbed them to little effect.
There were medical kits in both the starboard side and port side storage lockers. While he was currently port side, Gordon was already heading starboard side for the vacuum, and so he continued in that direction, resolutely climbing the floor. He knew he’d be passing the sleeping area on the way, and shuddered at the implications.
Melanie and Fyodor Oborski—the international mission specialist—were there, keeping Kenneth’s corpse company. The large girl and the wisecracking Russian floated listlessly across the room, matching grey pants pulled around their ankles, along with their undergarments.
Fyodor panted in Melanie’s ear, awkwardly slipping it to her from behind. The girl stared with no situational awareness, anchoring herself by grasping Kenneth’s arm, protruding from its metal cabinet coffin.
“Fyodor, stop that now!” the commander cried. “Can’t you see that Melanie’s gone catatonic? What you’re doing is practically rape!”
Fyodor’s bearded face twisted toward Gordon. “Chill out, dude,” he said in a mock Californian accent. “Don’t you know we’re dead now? Relax and enjoy it. Cut yourself a slice of this woman’s loaf, if you wanna. I’m almost done here.”
Green light flashed, and the sleeping area became spirit-congested. The newcomers were of all ages, from infants to geriatrics, and from all eras. Some wore modern clothing, others vintage threads. Many wore apparel that Gordon had never glimpsed before: feather cloaks, foot-high shirt collars, dotted waistcoats and bloomer suits.
There were men with powdered wigs, and even a specter whose true form was hidden within a disconcerting crow costume: a long-beaked stitched leather mask topped by a black cordobés hat, with a dark voluminous robe engulfing all else. Waving a black baton to and fro, the crow-man silently admonished the gathering.
The visitors were somewhat translucent, insubstantial things through which the sane confines of the ship could still be glimpsed. Their facial expressions exhibited an admixture of fury, avarice, loathing and sorrow. Somehow, Fyodor and Melanie managed to ignore their newfound audience, even as the ghosts fondled their living flesh.
Spirits were all around him, so Gordon headed back the way he’d arrived. He no longer cared about the vacuum, and had forgotten Steve Herman’s gnawed-open wrists entirely. In fact, he scarcely discerned the pitiful mewling emanating from his own shock-slackened mouth. It was as if the antiseptic white walls of the orbiter were closing in on him, crushing Gordon between burgeoning jaws.
The spacecraft’s internal fluorescent floodlights buzzed into his skull, adding to the river of spectral whispers winding its way through Gordon’s psyche. The combination left him weaker than he’d ever been, weakness far beyond the loss of bone density and muscle mass associated with zero gravity life.
The equipment bay was on the lower deck. There, amid the electrical systems and life support equipment, Gordon discovered another crewmember: payload specialist Peter Kent. Kent had donned his bright orange Launch Entry Suit for some reason—including the parachute and all associated survival systems—everything but his helmet. He’d also built a floating fort, improvised from the trash and solid waste bags awaiting disposal back on Earth.
“Commander Gordon, is that you?” Kent asked, his pale freckled face peering warily out the shelter, an amalgamation of nervous tics.
“It’s me,” Gordon confirmed. “Can I ask what you’re doing down here? You can’t be comfortable in that LES.”
“I’m hiding, sir. We’ve been infiltrated, and they can’t touch me through this gear. Watch out, commander, they’re all around you.” Pulling a helmet over his fire-red mane, Kent terminated the conversation.
A cold caress brushed Gordon’s cheek: mottled, bloated whiteness pawing vigorously, presumably attached to a drowning victim. Eyes squeezed closed, the commander let muscle memory pull him back toward the mid deck.
Only one crewmember remained unaccounted for: Hershel Stein, the shuttle’s pilot. If anyone could account for where they’d ended up, it was Stein. But the man hadn’t been at his pilot’s seat, or on any of the crew compartment’s three decks. He had to be spacewalking.
Gordon passed through the first airlock door, and locked it securely behind him. Slowly, he donned his extravehicular mobility unit—hard upper torso, lower torso assembly, helmet, gloves, extravehicular visor assembly—every component of the bulky white encumbrance.
He spent a few hours breathing pure oxygen, draining nitrogen from his body tissue to prevent decompression sickness. Around him, ghosts flickered in and out of visibility, twisted-faced specters ravenous for life glow. Gordon ignored these apparitions the best that he could, closing his eyes and reciting old sitcom themes from memory, sweating profusely all the while.
Finally, enough time had passed for Gordon to pass through the second airlock door, into the open cosmos. Grimly, he tethered himself to the orbiter, noticing another safety tether already attached. Breathing canned oxygen, he pushed off from the spacecraft’s remote manipulator arm.
Nudging a small joystick, he worked the nitrogen jet thrusters of his propulsive backpack system. Reaching Stein, Gordon gently spun the pilot until they were drifting face-to-face. Hershel stared back without sight, his curly hair and proudly waxed mustache drained of all color. The Phantom Cabinet had claimed another victim.
Gordon couldn’t bring himself to reenter the haunted crew module, overstuffed with poltergeists and insane crewmates. Instead, Space Shuttle Conundrum’s commander detached his safety tether, and let the orbiter fall away.
Soon, Gordon could no longer discern the spacecraft’s lifted body and backswept wings. Calmly sipping water from his in-suit drink bag, he succumbed to the void chill, adrift amongst the stars.
The cold black cosmos turned an anemic green. Stars moved ever closer, resolving into the lost souls of the damned. As predatory spirits encircled him, crushing with undying hunger, Gordon considered the possibility that he’d died during liftoff. Perhaps everything he’d experienced since had been nothing more than Hell’s prelude.
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