"s 2015 Horror Write-off:

" Writ to be Read "

Submitted by Nick Norden

Summer, 1986, in the old port town of Crail

I'd recieved my fishing license and was studying to sail.

I galumphed down to the library a ways off from my home

and once there I scoured shelves for dusty sailor's tomes.

After skimping on through books on stars, wind reading, knots, and rigging

I decided I had basics covered and went to do some digging

in the dustiest, mustiest, darkest, oldest corner of the place

where the sunlight couldn't reach, and where the shelves had been defaced.

There were books on mummy curses, rites, and rituals abound

all written back when people still said things like "strewth" or "zounds!"

But the one of most importance I still see often in my mind:

half-rotted, navy blue, a compass rose upon its spine.

Transfixed upon its bindings I drew it from its creaking sheath

and pried apart its leather shell to see the secrets tucked beneath.

On page the first there was the signature of the author scrawled within

after a minute's time of squinting I deciphered "Chauncey Quinn"

a name I was not familiar with or hadn't seen before

but something about it made me feel like waves crashing on the shore.

Perturbed or just confused I flipped the page onto the next

and written in the center was this smudged up bit of text:

"Be     the eb   flo 

Wher  all             orms      g

a r    e   p   e of  i e    o                      ow "

A mystery for sure, but I simply had no time to guess,

as the library would close in fifteen minutes, maybe less.

I said to myself "I'll take this old thing home with me tonight"

but as I put it on the counter the clerk faltered at its sight

"Where'd you find that old relic?" he asked in mystified tone

and when I answered truthfully his face turned white as bone

"You shouldn't take stuff from over there" he sternly ordered me

"Those books are strange and sinister, and not for most to see!"

A librarian not wanting me to read? Now there's a laugh!

Does he think it rather dangerous to learn to work a gaff?

"Stop being such a worrywart and let me take my book,

if you really think it's harmful then why don't you have a look?"

in answer to my small request he ripped it from my hand

and flipped it open to the second page to better understand

"Oh, hey! I recognize this one!" he exclaimed while tittering so

"I remember it from when I was little, but... hmm... how did it go?"

"Behold the ebb n' flow

Where all of our world's forms did grow

a righteous place of niceties o'er the briny deep below"

"My mother'd read it to me back when I was just a kid,

she thought poems'd make me literate and, hey, I guess they did!"

"Yeah, neat." I mumbled in response, but my mind was far away

should a sailor really put stock in the things that lowly librarians say?

"Thanks for your interpretation, but I think I've ought to see

what the words in this book appear to be to a man of the sea like me."

After showing my card, taking the tome, and walking out into the sun

I set out to find a decipherer and I believe I knew the one:

Sir Barnaby Thomlinson "Blackeye" MacFinn, under which I used to train

who once caught 9 sturgeons in 10 minutes flat in pissing November rain!

If anyone knew a sailor's rhyme it'd surely be that lout

so I made my way down to the port side of town to shake his knowledge out.

I trotted on down to the run-down bar where he would often drink,

a hole-in-the-wall called "Longshoreman Hall" or something like that I think.

I walked inside and when my eyes adjusted what I saw wasn't much of a shock:

the sea dog was already totally sloshed, though it was only 10 past 4 o'clock.

"Hey get up you drunk, I need your help!" I yelled to his withered old ear

and yet at the same instant he spies the book these are the slurred words I hear:

"Bewame th ebbmn flow

Way awl'f yer morble fours'll go

a repned pies o eyes ohly doze o ald fresh no"

Then without another word he tumbled to the tavern floor,

as I knelt down beside him with intent of hearing more

I noticed quickly as I tried to help a puddle of deep, deep red

and I could tell just from his glassy black eyes that old MacFinn was dead.

In shock I flew out the door of the bar and bolted back up to my home

away from the Longshoreman Hall, the port and the smothering scent of sea foam

and I dashed to my room on the second floor and locked it tight as a keep

as I stashed the mysterious book away and desperately tried to sleep.

Come morning I still hadn't gotten a wink but there was no time left to rest

for today was my first fishing excursion and I had to try my best!

I threw on my best fishing boots and sailing coat and cap

and in the mirror looked all the world like a proper seafaring chap.

But as I took a step to leave a sudden thought occurred to me

I should take the book and chuck that paper devil out to sea!

So I grabbed the thing and threw it in with all of my supplies;

setting foot out toward the dock below the shining Summer skies.

Meeting up with my instructor (whose name I honestly forget)

to teach me how to be a proper swearin' seaman yet

we set off from the dock and into open waters quick

showing how improper preparation can make a lubber sick.

Sure enough I felt the need to hurl and rushed to starboard side

while my ass of an instructor began to arrogantly chide

on the importance of deep breathing when first going out to sail

and how if I couldn't even do that then I was surely set to fail.

His words beat against my brain and in my head I had a stir

when in an angered lapse of judgement I requested of him "Sir,

I found this book down at library and thought that you would know

about that poem on the second page, so tell me, how's it go?"

He smirked at me in haughtiness and answered "Well, let me see,

if anyone knows a sailor's verse it's definitely me!

I have studied songs and limericks and even sonnets too

so I should know about this poem that is sorely stumping you."

At that I take the book out of my coat and give it to the man,

who then promplty flips it open with his gnarled writer's hands

onto page one where there he spies the author's promptly written name

and at that moment he looks at me and chortles, "Hah, so that's your game!

You think that you're so clever!" he exposits with a laugh,

"You've brought me my grandfather's book in the hopes of an autograph!

Well, I hate to break it to you squirt but if you want a signage, see,

the great writer Fontleroy Maximus Quinn doesn't give them out for free.

But if you want to know what's written here I'll tell you how it goes,

for it's one that's been muddled through the years and I'm the only one who knows."

"Beware the ebb n' flow

Where all unwary worms shall go

a raucous pleat of ire on which landlegs will be towed"

"Rather grisly don't you think? It's a warning to those on land

to not try and tame the ocean they so truly misunderstand."

As he said these words a fog began to set in 'round the boat,

slowly blocking out the Summer sun like a hand around its throat

"You may have heard it differently, with different words I bet,

as plebians love to romanticize the things they just don't get!"

"Uh, sir?" I muttered out to him but he was so conceited

that he didn't hear me talking from how closely I was seated,

though the sky kept getting darker and the fog ever less sheer

he just couldn't stop to pull himself from his own words in his ears.

That moron kept on yammering ('bout what I didn't care),

all the while a sense of dread was beating swiftly through the air.

Finally as Fontleroy had realized the goings on,

just as the sky got darker than the sea we were upon,

a sound came from the port side that made me far beyond nervous:

the unmistakable sound of something breaking the water's surface.

Before I could even yell to him that we should turn around

the blackened hand of a frostbitten man clung to him without a sound,

wrenching him into the briny deep as he cursed and howled in fear;

the final sounds of an arrogant man I'd never hoped to hear.

In a sudden act of panic I bolted frantically inside

the captain's room and tried to find a proper place to hide.

No dice, the captain's room was bare: a table, nothing more

so in my frightened desperation I pressed myself against the door.

I held against the entryway, against the ensuing storm,

when to my shock I felt a chill, and ice began to form!

The frost had covered the door completely, no inch of it was spared

and as I heaved myself against it a voice boomed "Are you scared!?

You think yourself a sailor yet you quiver like a child,

a pathetic little maggot with my book that you've defiled!

Worthless like my grandson, no, you may actually be worse

than my firstborn son who stole my tome and tampered with my curse.

You seek to know just how it goes, the meaning for which you yearn,

you took this trip for the sake of knowledge and now indeed you'll learn.

'Beware the ebon floe

Where all your mortal forms will go

a wretched plane of ice that only those of old flesh know'"

Upon his recital of the verse my blood ran colder still

while the frost kept creeping through the room, draining all my will.

Thoughts of escape went through my mind with "where"s and "when"s and "how"s,

until old Chauncey cackled wetly "Yes, you can see it now!"

I peered out of the window and what I saw made my heart quake:

the ocean waters we'd just sailed were now smaller than a lake

and on the edge of the water's surface was a huge expanse of black

with the withered forms of people wandering back and forth and back.

As the cold grew colder and the ghost laughed harder I knew that I was lost,

preparing for eternities of trotting across the frost.

But as my soul grew weak and I resigned myself to my plight

I felt the telltale warmth of the sun's shining rays of light

cutting through the cursĂŠd fog that had had the boat ensnared

dispelling the hellish visages of those who'd not been spared.

As fast as I could possibly go and then even faster still

I dashed to the rudder and steered back around, away from the nightmare chill,

back to the harbor we departed from in the old port town of Crail

where I vowed from that point on that I would never ever sail.


"How many rocks in the old wooden box 'til that box touches floor?"

the Fat one asked and the Thin one said, "23 and not one more!"

"23?" said the Big one to the Thin, "I don't know about you lot

but I want the amount of rocks in the box to be right so we aren't caught."

"How many rocks in the old wooden box 'til that box goes down right?"

the Fat one asked again, squinting at the morning light

"Rocks may not be quite what we need, if to sink it's your intent

the answer is quite simply several layers of cement."

"You should've said that earlier" the Thin one yelled out in defeat,

"We simply haven't the time right now to be mixing up concrete!"

"How many rocks in the old wooden box until we're all free of this man!?"

the Fat one hollered once again, but they had no more time to plan.

I'm sorry to say, dear reader, that the four of them had failed,

the box in their attic kept floating up and the thing inside still wailed.


Under thunder: wonder, sundered.

Depressed, impressed, ingressed, undressed.

Yearning, churning, learning, burning.

"Partake!" Mistake, awake. Unmake.

Unsealed, revealed, congealed, annealed.

Bend. Rend. End, friend.


Every year when trees start to wither

and the winter comes ever more hither

a call is sent out

by the Hanger-ons' scouts

saying out of their caves they should slither

In places unknown they will crowd,

together yet in solitude shroud,

each sipping their beverage

and looking for leverage

while trying to not think too loud.

In cacophonous silence they sway

eyes pried for a possible way

they could get a leg up

on all these other chumps

and finally have their own say.

When the Hangers have all found their in

then it's time for the dance to begin

waltzing together

they feed on their other

doing what they must to win.

As dawn's light shines on the eaves

and dew drips from the brown autumn leaves

there's nary a laugh

as the remaining half

of the Hanger-ons all take their leaves.

If you ever feel needing of friends

upon which you can never depend

then this coming fall

join the Hanger-on Ball

and come be the means to their ends.


The wild kingdom from sands to slough

is made of carbon,

just like you.

The ostrich, chimp, and kangaroo

all stand on two legs

just like you.

Rabbits, wolves, and caribou,

they all have short hair

just like you.

Bobcats, sharks, and serpents, too

have all got sharp eyes

just like you.

Swordfish in the ocean blue

can swim like rockets

just like you.

Jungle cats from Timbuktu

all have such big teeth

just like you.

Raptors aren't in any zoo

but they had toeclaws

just like you.

The Boogeyman and the wild grue

lurk in the shadows

just like you.

Pain like nothing that could ever be,

of tearing flesh and organs free,

so painful you no longer see.

The others had it

just like me.


Triangle, Triangle, Triangle Eye

sloped in his chair with a view of the sky,

hand on his chin, speaking in mime,

sitting in silence, biding his time.

Triangle, Triangle, Triangle spies,

over the roof that ensconces the skies,

a blur streaking brightly with fiery grace

and a look of intrigue lights his triangle face.

Triangle, triangle, triangle y,

the equation determining how, where, and why.

Triangle sweats as he measures and scrawls,

his feverish scribblings consuming the walls.

Triangle, Triangle, Triangle flies

out of his window as the cockerel cries.

With his chart and his mind he sets off to the place

where he knows he shall find his messiah from space.

Triangle, Triangle, Triangle lies,

prone in the fields where he cuts all his ties,

the world had done Triangle foul in the past

and Triangle makes sure his laugh is the last.

Triangle, Triangle, Triangle sighs,

awash in the freedom his escapade buys

as the body grows nearer he greets it as friend

embracing the form that brings his thankful end.

Triangle, Triangle, Triangle fries

in the heat of the light of the new sun's rise.

His subjugators storm to the scene they'd surmised

just as Triangle, Triangle, Triangle dies.