Random Rejection: Dark Regions, “The Last Vacancy”

Realizing it has been a long, long time since I did a random rejection, this week, I decided to fire up the old random number generator and reach into the old accordion file of denials (and the occasional acceptance). This time I was told to take the 26th rejection from the “D” folder, and so here we have this one, from Dark Regions magazine (which is still around, and is now the specialty book publisher Dark Regions Press), for my short story “The Last Vacancy”:

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Underground with the Mouthless Girl

Back when I wrote mostly horror, I accumulated quite a collection of reference books of ghosts, spirits, and various and sundry monsters. (This was before we could just hop on the Internets and pull information out of the worldwide series of tubes.) One of my favorite reference books was The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits, which listed literally hundreds of ghouls and beasties from around the world. “Underground with the Mouthless Girl” is about a rather nasty ghost from India called a churel, which is the restless spirit of a woman who died in childbirth. “Underground with the Mouthless Girl” appeared in “The Earwig Flesh Factory” from Eraserhead Press in the summer of 2000.

This story is not particularly gory, but I’ve always considered it one of the most creepy and unsettling things I ever wrote. You have been warned.

The girl catches Michael Osborne’s eye as he comes out of the men’s room. She’s sitting on a tall stool at the end of the bar, with one long, impossibly shapely leg extended toward the floor, like a dancer doing a pirouette. Silky black hair flows over her shapely neck and shoulders with the grace of a waterfall, concealing what her scanty red summer dress would otherwise reveal.

Osborne slides onto the stool next to her; it is inexplicably unoccupied on this noisy, crowded night. She looks at him and smiles. Her skin has a lustrous walnut sheen that goes perfectly with her jet hair. Her eyes are wide and dark and shaped like some exotic nut. For a moment Osborne finds himself speechless.

“Hello,” she says.

Osborne finds his voice before he begins to stutter or babble. “Hi. I’m Michael. You can call me Mike.”

“I’m Madhur.” She has a slight Indian accent. Aren’t they the ones who do all that kinky Kama Sutra stuff? “You can call me …” She looks him up and down. “… anytime.”

Just who is picking up who, anyway?

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