Saturday, 31 March 2012

SMILING CYRUS - Cabaret of Dread stories revealed

Every Saturday for the next eleven weeks I’m revealing the tale behind the tale of Cabaret of Dread Vol.1’s main stories, together with a short excerpt of each to whet your appetite.


This is the first previously unpublished tale in the collection. I originally wrote it in 2011 for the marvellous Evil Jester Press' Attic Toys anthology, edited by the equally brilliant Jeremy Shipp. Unfortunately I missed the deadline, but the story wouldn't leave me alone. No other paying market suited its bizarro horror theme, so I decided it should have a place of its own in Cabaret of Dread.

So – what’s Smiling Cyrus about? 

Naughty Cyrus isn't where he's supposed to be, skipping school and playing in his parents' attic instead. He has lots of friends up there - and they all want to play.

That was over a year ago; Cyrus is still missing and his mother Debonair is sure she knows where her son is.  But with a violent husband Debbie has to choose her moment. Will Cyrus be waiting? And will the toys welcome his mother to the game?

I've been told this is some people's worst nightmare. Oh goodie.


Although I already had the anthology theme to spur the concept, the opening lines came to me on the scurry from the bath to my bedroom - beneath my own loft hatch.

As I struggled to jot the words down whilst still half-clad in a damp towel I noticed a family walking along the street past my house, no doubt on the way to the beach - a stone's throw from my front door.

The dad was a big burly bugger, striding ahead and shouting at his stick insect of a wife. Haggard and obviously down-trodden, she trailed behind - occasionally holding out a hand to her little boy. This ginger-haired cherub skipped along ignoring his parents, then - smiling - stopped to stroke a cat. His mum and dad had crossed the road and turned the corner without even realising their son wasn't with them any more.

How chilling - and how very Smiling Cyrus.


Hurtling. He’s hurtling. Cyrus has a head the size of three balloons welded into one, rubber bumps in all the right places. Someone set him up,
something stung him.

Trinkets and engraved goblets topple from overloaded shelves as the boy, nearly a man runs the length of the room and back again. His eyes are peas in the growing face. He tears at them, not knowing if they are about to sink forever into the burgeoning flesh or pop and burst. Salty old seadog, those tears that spill; they sting the stretch marks spreading and ripping at the child’s visage.

Blind, Cyrus throws himself to the floor. Screaming is impossible; the fattened mouth is full to suffocation with a tongue of weeping meatloaf. Who would hear him anyway?

They start with a jingle, the bells; whispering at Cyrus with their teasing voices. He slaps at the spaces his ears used to be, hearing only mosquito torture and fearing another assault. So they play a little louder. The boy shudders as the noise grows in volume. Tinkling, ding dong dinging, tolling and tolling and tolling until the sound is too much and the eardrums inside Cyrus’s attic-sized head explode. The roar that almost kills him is enough to wake Mr and Mrs Cleavage in their bedroom below.

It’s the same every night since their son disappeared. They hear him scream, always at the witching hour of 3:15am. Charlie Cleavage had stopped his wife Debonair from exploring the loft; that was over a year ago. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t wonder – still.


“What is it hun? Hey, are my eggs ready yet?”

Debbie flips them once, then back again without spilling a drop of bile-shaded yolk. Charlie doesn’t care for his wife’s allergies, or that eggs make her gag every morning. Charlie has needs.

“I want... I mean – can we have a yard sale?”

She slips the eggs onto a plate next to a pile of grits and chunks of fried bread. It’s casual, how she hands her husband his breakfast but he knows she’s up to something. He grabs her wrist. Debonair has long since learned not to give Charlie the satisfaction of a flinch. She sits down, ignoring the pain and smiles with red lips.

“I saw something you’d like.”

Charlie releases his grip, attacks the eggs in a spattering mess.

“What?” is all he can manage with a full mouth.

“Now honey that would ruin the surprise. You know how I like to please you.”

She runs her skinny hand over his knee, hating every moment.

“This is special. But I need a lidda bit of money, and I thought we could - you know, clear out the back-room, the attic, the garage...”

Charlie drops his fork on the plate.

“The attic?”

Debbie smoothes her skirt over knees made of sticks. They shake beneath the floral-patterned cotton.

“Yup. The attic. I decided you were right. Cyrus isn’t coming back.”

Cyrus isn’t coming back. She’s practised the line until it no longer shakes in her mouth. Charlie eyes her, his thick brows bristling like April caterpillars ready to spin a cold cocoon. Ain’t no butterflies in that bastard, Debbie thinks.


He pats Debonair’s leg, lingering at her thigh. She swallows the hate and claps her hands.

“Oh, goodie! I’ll make a start while you’re at the mill today.”

She stands, escaping before he can spread his hand wide enough to hurt.


Like the excerpt? You can read a few more pages of SMILING CYRUS, plus the opening tale DRESSING-UP BOX and a few mini-tales by visiting Cabaret of Dread's 'Look Inside' feature on Amazon.

Of course, the best way to read this - and the many other stories in Vol.1 of Cabaret of Dread, is to download it. If you do, I am ever thankful... 

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Lily Childs is a writer of horror, esoteric, mystery and chilling fiction.

If you see her dancing outside in a thunder storm - don't try to bring her in. She's safe.