QSFer A.C. Wise has a new gay horror book out: “Catfish Lullaby.”
Small town secrets lead to trouble for everyone as Caleb must confront the demons of his past in this Southern Gothic queer cosmic horror, a tale of weird magic and monsters on the bayou.
LEWIS IS A TOWN OF SECRETS
The Royce family has been a plague on the small, Southern town of Lewis for generations. Caleb has heard rumors about the family his whole life, just like he’s heard the rumors about a monstrous creature known as Catfish John living in the swamp.
When the Royce house burns down, Caleb’s father—Lewis’s sheriff—takes in the sole survivor, a young girl named Cere. Caleb quickly learns the truth about Archie Royce and the terrible fate he had planned for his daughter. After a woman is brutally murdered, Cere begins to suspect that not all of her family perished in the fire, and she and Caleb set out to stop her father’s dark vision from coming to pass.
Years later, Caleb is the sheriff of Lewis, and the monsters of his childhood return. Now Caleb must fight to protect those he loves from Archie Royce’s legacy, and his best hope may be a legend he’s almost managed to convince himself never existed—Catfish John.
Warning: racist and bigoted language.
Caleb lay facing the window, his grandmother’s quilt pulled to his chin. From his position, he could just see the persimmon tree in the yard and, beyond it, the screen of pines separating his grandparents’ property from Archie Royce’s land. Back in the woods, past Royce’s and where the ground started to go soft, Caleb’s daddy—Lewis’s sheriff—was leading a team to drag
the swamp for a missing girl.
Caleb had heard Denny Harmon and Robert Lord talking about it at school.
They were in first grade, but they’d probably both get held back, so Caleb would be stuck in the same class as them next year. Denny had said Catfish John took the girl.
“My cousin’s friend was there. Catfish John came out of the swamp like a
gator, mouth full of teeth. He grabbed her with his webbed hands and pulled
her into the water.”
Denny Harmon had grinned, looking like a gator himself, and looked right
“He probably killed her with a death roll and strung her up by her feet from
the trees and slit her throat. He probably let her blood drain into the swamp to feed his catfish family.”
Caleb hadn’t run to tattle, but Robert held him while Denny punched him
in the gut anyway, leaving him wheezing for breath.
“Catfish John likes sissy black boys best,” Robert said, leaning close. “He’ll
leave us alone because we made it easier to catch you.”
Mark, Caleb’s best friend, found him after Denny and Robert left. Caleb’s
stomach hurt the rest of the day, but he still didn’t tell. If Robert and Denny
found out—and they would—it would only make things worse.
His stomach didn’t hurt anymore, but he couldn’t get Denny’s words out of
his head. His daddy was out in those woods. What if Catfish John got him? Even a sheriff with a gun could get eaten by a monster.
“I’m telling you who’s responsible. Every damn fool in Lewis knows it ’cept
nobody else is willing to do a thing about it.” His grandfather’s voice drifted
under the bedroom door, interrupted by a nasty fit of coughing.
“Emmett, hush. Don’t bring all that up again. ’Sides, you’ll wake Caleb.”
“Bet you he’s awake anyhow.” His grandfather chuckled, the rattling sound
of his cough lingering.
Caleb started guiltily as his door opened, light from the hall spilling around
his grandmother. It was too late to pretend he hadn’t been listening.
“Can’t sleep, sweet pea?” His grandmother didn’t sound upset.
AC Wise was born and raised in Montreal and currently lives just far
enough into the Philadelphia suburbs that deer roam her backyard.
Her short fiction has appeared in publications such as Shimmer, The
Dark, and The Best Horror of the Year Volume Ten, among other
places. She has published two collections, The Ultra Fabulous Glitter
Squadron Saves the World Again and The Kissing Booth Girl and Other
Stories, the latter of which was a finalist for the Lambda Literary
Award. Her story “The Last Sailing of the Henry Charles Morgan in Six
Pieces of Scrimshaw (1841)” won the Sunburst Award for Excellence in
Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Find her online at www.acwise.