The Erotica of Autumn by Joshua Skye
Too often genres such as erotica, horror, and fantasy are pigeonholed and not just by the mainstream, but by authors and readers as well. There are certain stereotypes and expectations of each; elements that have become clichés we see all the time. I like to transcend them, play with them, mix ‘em up, and create something fresh, fun, and unique. I am quite proud of the distinctness and bizarre nature of The Angels of Autumn.
Autumn, with its beautiful colorful changes, deep earthy fragrances, and longer nights, is my favorite time of the year. It is the perfect season for scary stories. Who doesn’t love to curl up under a warm blanket and read about things that go bump in the night? I know I do. I think its universal, everyone does it.
The Angels of Autumn is set in the fall, designed to conjure nostalgia for childhood. Our hero, Kincaid dwells there quite profoundly as he returns to his hometown to investigate the mysterious death of his twin brother; a murder suspiciously swept under the proverbial rug. Believing his brother was killed for the same reasons they were mercilessly picked on as children, Kincaid searches for evidence that would bring the killer or killers to some kind of justice. What he uncovers is so much more than small town prejudices manifested in violence.
My small-town thriller transforms into something deeper and more terrifying, a preternatural horror story bound to our current era and profoundly indicative of our evolving socio-political environment. It is incredibly appropriate and timely, not just in its defiant stance against bullying, but in its unapologetic sexuality as well.
Kincaid is gay and he’s not hung-up on it. He’s not afraid of himself, his sexuality, or his rebellious, understandable intolerance of homophobia and other chauvinisms. As raw and open as I present this, I felt it necessary to acknowledge his sexuality just as openly and just as fearlessly. The sex is graphic, unrefined, pragmatic, and candid. It’s unfettered, human, and enthralling. It is erotic!
The Angels of Autumn is just as much a bold piece of erotica as it is an unnerving thriller, and a bloodcurdling piece of horror-fantasy. It surpasses the clichés and expectations of these wonderful, literate, and all-too-often overlooked genres, to become what I think is an exciting and captivating story.
There are certainly traditional elements to The Angels of Autumn, but I hope that by the time they are done with the book readers will say, “That was different.” And certainly I hope they will have enjoyed the overall ride regardless of what elements got them to buy a ticket to begin with. The horror, the fantasy, and the sex … its all here and it all awaits.
Kincaid Kingsley returns to the town of his childhood after the death of his twin brother, Xander. Believing the crime to be motivated by hate and prejudice, Kincaid sets out to discover why the police are no longer actively investigating the case and hopefully uncover his brother’s killer in the process.
Things in Wren are not as they seem, however, and the closer that Kincaid gets to an answer, the more danger he encounters. Why are all the townspeople so afraid to share what they know?
As the mystery surrounding Xander’s death unravels, the town becomes increasingly blind to what is actually going on. Can Kincaid discover who killed his brother and save the town from evil?
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The Angels of Autumn Excerpt:
From Chapter Five…
The Lombardi Funeral Home was among the oldest of buildings in Wren, constructed in the late 1800s as both a business and a residence by the Lombardi family, immigrants from Italy, of course.
They conducted the bulk of their unusual profession on the shadowy, beautifully decorated, meticulously maintained first level while the untidy dealings with body preparation were carried out in the basement. The second and third levels were where they actually lived. Kept in the family for well over a hundred years by strict legal clauses in every will and testament down the Lombardi line it was now owned and operated by the widow Mary Anne Lombardi and her only son, Angelo.
Kincaid felt queasy as he looked around the parlor. The furnishings were ancient, most assuredly antiques, perhaps even the original Italian décor, all aglow in the flickering light of electric candles. Aside from what little daylight filtered in through the dark sheers, there were no other light sources. A little bell had announced his arrival several minutes before but he’d yet to be greeted.
There was a musty smell and a pungent chemical odor beneath it. Someone, somewhere deep in the house turned on a hissing record player and after a few scratchy seconds a low, somber sonata began to play over unseen speakers. A curtain parted and a tall shadowy figure emerged. He said, “How may I help?”
Angelo was a handsome man with typically Italian features. He was dressed in a nice, solemn suit and had his hair combed strictly back. His large hazel eyes fell on his guest and there was an audible sound of shock, a sigh and then a deep intake of air. He said, “Kincaid. Wow, I thought you’d never come back to this place especially when you didn’t attend your brother’s funeral. Everyone thought it was pretty scandalous. So, how’s it going?”
Ignoring the crude judgment, Kincaid detected a genuine surprise in Angelo’s voice. He was the same age and had been in many of the very same classes as the Kingsley twins, he’d even been one of the disapproving assholes who had put them through hell. Angelo had been one of the popular kids, one of the over-exulted Wren Dragons, a dumb jock destined to forever mourn his golden high school days. As an adult, Angelo didn’t seem so intimidating anymore. He was just a man in his late twenties, wasting away in the family business, no longer taut, tan and toned, no longer important, no longer a Dragon…the toast of the town. He had a beer belly which alone made Kincaid happy. “I’m okay,” he replied. “How have you been?”
Angelo’s lips quivered when he forced a smile and answered, “Good. Thank you. How’s your mother?”
“As good as can be expected, I guess.”
Angelo said, “Right. Well, how can I help you?” He was stiff, formal. The fingers of his hands were entwined and resting at his waist. He cocked his head to one side, the sympathy in his eyes was counterfeit, a professional automation.
“I wanted to talk to you about my brother’s funeral, actually.” Kincaid found he couldn’t look at Angelo when he said ‘funeral,’ and so he diverted his gaze across the room to nothing in particular. Everything about the place was so old.
Angelo’s voice got deeper and there was a hint of umbrage to it. “I imagine you would. Your mother expressed her disappointment in your brother’s restoration. We’re very sorry she was so displeased. I assure you we pro-rated our fees accordingly.”
Kincaid slowly brought his attention back to his host and said, “Yeah well, do you do the restoration?”
“No. My mother does.” Angelo’s stance changed, he was getting defensive both vocally and physically.
“May I speak with her, please?”
“I’m not here to cause a scene or anything. I just want to talk to her. That’s all, Angelo. I’m not going to berate your mother.”
The Italian man just stood there for several tedious and silent moments assessing the guest’s intentions. Kincaid refused to look away this time no matter how nerve-racking or unsettling the situation slowly became. He wasn’t in high school anymore, he wasn’t the frightened and belittled teenager who shied away from everyone and Angelo wasn’t the pompous cock-of-the-walk anymore. They were adults and far more equal now than Angelo was probably even aware of.
Kincaid prepared himself for a physical altercation. Being picked on mercilessly had prompted him to take quite a few self-defense classes over the years. Angelo might have been able to beat the shit out of him once, long ago, but his glory days were long over. He was out of shape and didn’t have his buddies around to back him up. Kincaid put on a confident little grin and stated, “I said please.
Angelo’s shoulders slouched ever so slightly. He swallowed hard and his eyes turned down as his voice became professional, disengaged. He said, “Of course. If you’ll excuse me I’ll see if she’s available. Please, take a seat.”
“Thank you, Angelo,” Kincaid said lowly.
Angelo nodded and disappeared behind the curtain.
Kincaid turned and meandered into the small, dismal sitting room and over to a stiff, uncomfortable sofa and sat down. A spider crawled over the surface of the weathered coffee table. Not particularly squeamish about such things, Kincaid watched it with a distracting fascination, the way it moved, the legs click, click, clicking along. He frowned as he realized that this spider was malformed. It had nine legs instead of eight and yet the added appendage didn’t seem to impede it in the slightest. He found himself leaning down, close, to get a better view of the little creepy crawly. The spider stopped. Perhaps it was now quite aware of its audience. It was perfectly still, frozen.
“Mr. Kingsley.” The voice was soft.
Kincaid flinched. The spider lurched into motion and scurried over the edge of the table and vanished. Being polite, Kincaid stood and turned his attention to the petite woman standing in the entranceway. She clutched a leather-bound portfolio to her bosom. Her salt and pepper hair was pulled into a tight bun on her head. She had modest make-up on and was dressed in a long, conservative black dress. There was a beautifully crocheted shawl draped over her shoulders perhaps utilized to hide the slight curvature of her upper spine. Kincaid said, “Ms. Lombardi, thank you for seeing me.”
She smiled courtly and entered the room, moved gracefully around the back of the sofa and sat down next to her guest. Kincaid sat down as well. Her eyes were down. He wondered what she was thinking. He imagined she thought he was there to complain. He wanted to reassure her he was not and so he said, “I didn’t come here to…”
Without looking at him, she shoved the portfolio at him. Sheepishly, he accepted it and took a deep breath before opening it. For a moment he expected to see pictures of his dead brother, before and after. It wasn’t something he was even remotely interested in. They were pictures of the dead and indeed they were before and after shots, instamatic snapshots, many of them yellowed with age. The first was an old man whose face had practically been pulled off in some horrible accident. After the restoration he simply appeared as though he were napping. The second was a woman whose forehead had been cleaved open and again the after picture was perfect. On and on the pictures went, each turn of the page revealing flawless transformations.
She said demurely, “My work. As you can see, I am very good at it.”
“It’s immaculate, you’d never know, but my mother said she could…” Kincaid paused as a realization hit him. He turned his eyes away from the Polaroid snapshots in the photo album. The widow Lombardi looked sad and afraid at the same time. His voice was shaky, hesitant. He said, “You did it on purpose.”
Mary Anne nodded and took the album back from him, she closed it and pressed it, embraced it, to her breast. Her eyes moved downward until she stared at the floor and there she focused for a long time, barely breathing, silent and still. She was contemplating something. Kincaid’s mind raced with what those thoughts might be. His heart fluttered nervously. What secret was she about to reveal?
Joshua Skye was born in Jamestown, New York but predominantly grew up in the Texas Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. He is a graduate of K.D. Studio Actor’s Conservatory of the Southwest and has worked on indie/underground films and on stage. He lives in rural Pennsylvania with his partner Ray of sixteen years and their eight year old son, Syrian. His short stories have appeared in anthologies from STARbooks Press, Knightwatch Press, Sirens Call Publications, Rainstorm Press, JMS Books and periodicals such as Blood and Lullabies. He is the author of The Singing Wind, Bareback: A Werewolf’s Tale, along with the forthcoming Midnight Rainbows, and The Grigori.