Saturday, 5 May 2012

LIVING IN A BOX - Cabaret of Dread stories revealed

Every Saturday 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. 

And as a special gift from me, this week I'm going to let you read the entire story LIVING IN A BOX for free!  If you like it, perhaps you'll buy Cabaret of Dread, or tell your horror-loving friends.


Grace Pearce is afraid of The Black. She is scared of The Spindle Queen and unnerved by Dr. Pipe. They seem to come and go in Grace's one-room world, and sometimes they bring others to watch. Will anyone ever take her home?

Living In A Box was written for Chris Allinotte's first March Madness dark fiction showcase in 2011 over at The Leaky Pencil.

Why not linger a while at Chris's place and read through the MADNESS series, maybe you'll even download the Madness collections EIGHT DAYS OF MADNESS and NINE DAYS OF MADNESS from Smashwords. They're free too!

So – what’s Living In A Box about? 

The story is narrated by a young woman, Grace, from her cell in an asylum. Pumped with drugs she drifts in and out of consciousness, her perceptions and personalities change and overlap, confusing both Grace and the doctors. Even in the most extreme throes of paranoia and insanity, Grace knows something is not quite right. And when a man she has never met arrives to take her home, the terrifying truth gradually becomes clear.


A constant fascination with mental health, psychosis and treatments. I wanted to be an art therapist at one stage when I was studying psychology, though sadly this never came about. No one thing beside the showcase prompt inspired me to write Living In A Box, but I suspect this story has always been in my head waiting to be written in one form or another.


Quivering, vaporous forms. They are indistinct as my eyes open to the familiar pale green of the box. Walking, talking photographs, paintings even - that morph back and forth.

My mouth is dry – it’s always that way. Someone sticks a tube between my teeth and I suck in the salty, pale-orange liquid. It tastes of electricity and saccharine.

The figures are clearer now. I recognise them from yesterday and the day before that. One’s a man – an old man. The other is young; his daughter perhaps. She is so thin I call her the Spindle Queen. Inquisitive, her tight face bears more lines than the father, but she has scarlet lips; lips that pout, lips that squeeze when she is angry. I’d like to eat them but she draws back as I lunge, a fruitless effort.

God, she’s fast.”

They nod heads and play out a psst, psst, psst tittle-tattle game of whispers before turning back to face me. My head dips to one side and I carefully emulate the woman’s fake smile. Mine reaches my eyes where hers does not. With a little flare of the nostrils she backs away, fading though the door until it is an empty picture frame.

I would love to stand up. When did I last use my feet? There are straps at my wrists, at my ankles; around my calves, my thighs and up, up, up to my chest where, without warning my heart swells hot then cold – freezing cold; pulsing fast, fast, faster. I can’t bear the panic. I need to run away. The chair is bolted to the floor but still I try to rock my way out of it, going nowhere. Quickly, my body gathers momentum until with every spasm the leather cuts into my skin, spraying blood over the thin gown. It spreads.

The old man calls into the wall.


I’ve heard that word before. It makes everything go black.

From somewhere within my belly I feel the squeal. It mounts and grows, taking my soul with it to the ceiling as its pitch rises. From a great height I circle the seated echo of me and join in with the scream pouring from my other throat. We labour as twins to fill the room with unique harmony.

Assistance arrives through another door. It’s the Spindle Queen. She winces at my song. She calls me Banshee.

I can do that. I’ll visit her in her dreams later, steal her children.

My ethereal being flails at Assistance as the needle is rammed into my corporeal arm. Although she cannot see my wraith she swipes at it anyway, but no matter - I am already sliding back inside. I have just enough time to spit in her face. There is red in it. I have bitten off the end my tongue.




“She’s not who she says she is,” the old man tells a gaggle of bespectacled onlookers. He smiles benignly at me so I guess it’s time to show him my claws. Midnight blue. I stretch them out as far as I am able.

“Can you tell our guests your name?” He is bent towards me, not too close but near enough that I can smell pipe tobacco.

“Lompster. Snap, snap.”

The visitors scribble onto notepads and clipboards, muttering and frowning. Old Man Pipe speaks again without averting his gaze from my lovely claws.

“Miss Pearce believes she is a lobster, for today at least.”

One of the group stares at me longer than the others. I wiggle my antenna and hope he will fall into my trap. I’m hungry.

Sniggers and half-concealed smirks ripple through the rabble, and then I spot her; Pipey’s daughter. She’s telling them I claimed I was a doctor last week. That’s ridiculous. I’m only twelve years old. Look at them – they’re the deluded ones in their white coats, writing and gossiping as though they can see inside my head. It’s the reverse. It’s me that knows they’re all after Thermidor for dinner; wondering whether to cook me gently, turning the heat up until I fall asleep – or plunge me into a boiling vat.

I don’t like it. I start to rock. Here it comes...



Like the excerpt? Read the whole tale for FREE at The Leaky Pencil. The full tale is also waiting for you in Cabaret of Dread By visiting the book's 'Look Inside' feature on Amazon you can read the opening tale DRESSING-UP BOX, a few pages of SMILING CYRUS and a handful of mini-tales.

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... 

Buy/Download Cabaret of Dread from |

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.