• Skulls in the Stars

    Skulls in the Stars

    The following story was originally written by Robert E. Howard (best known for creating the character Conan the Barbarian) and was published in the magazine Weird Tales in 1929.

    He told how murders walk the earth
    Beneath the curse of Cain,
    With crimson clouds before their eyes
    And flames about their brain:
    For blood has left upon their souls
    Its everlasting stain.

    “The Dream of Eugene Aram,” by Thomas Hood


    There are two roads to Torkertown. One, the shorter and more direct route, leads across a barren upland moor, and the other, which is much longer, winds its tortuous way in and out among the hummocks and quagmires of the swamps, skirting the low hills to the east. It was a dangerous and tedious trail; so Solomon Kane halted in amazement when a breathless youth from the village he had just left overtook him and implored him for God’s sake to take the swamp road.

    “The swamp road!” Kane stared at the boy. He was a tall, gaunt man, Solomon Kane, his darkly pallid face and deep brooding eyes made more sombre by the drab Puritanical garb he affected.

    “Yes, sir, ’tis far safer,” the youngster answered to his surprised exclamation.

    “Then the moor road must be haunted by Satan himself, for your townsmen warned me against traversing the other.”

    “Because of the quagmires, sir, that you might not see in the dark. You had better return to the village and continue your journey in the morning, sir.”

    “Taking the swamp road?”

    “Yes, sir.”

    Kane shrugged his shoulders and shook his head.

    “The moon rises almost as soon as twilight dies. By its light I can reach Torkertown in a few hours, across the moor.”

    “Sir, you had better not. No one ever goes that way. There are no houses at all upon the moor, while in the swamp there is the house of old Ezra who lives there all alone since his maniac cousin, Gideon, wandered off and died in the swamp and was never found—and old Ezra though a miser would not refuse you lodging should you decide to stop until morning. Since you must go, you had better go the swamp road.”

    Kane eyed the boy piercingly. The lad squirmed and shuffled his feet.

    “Since this moor road is so dour to wayfarers,” said the Puritan, “why did not the villagers tell me the whole tale, instead of vague mouthings?”

  • The Gray Wolf

    The Gray Wolf

    The following story was originally written by George MacDonald and was published more than 100 years ago.

    One evening-twilight in spring, a young English student, who had wandered northwards as far as the outlying fragments of Scotland called the Orkney and Shetland Islands, found himself on a small island of the latter group, caught in a storm of wind and hail, which had come on suddenly. It was in vain to look about for any shelter; for not only did the storm entirely obscure the landscape, but there was nothing around him save a desert moss.

    At length, however, as he walked on for mere walking’s sake, he found himself on the verge of a cliff, and saw, over the brow of it, a few feet below him, a ledge of rock, where he might find some shelter from the blast, which blew from behind. Letting himself down by his hands, he alighted upon something that crunched beneath his tread, and found the bones of many small animals scattered about in front of a little cave in the rock, offering the refuge he sought. He went in, and sat upon a stone. The storm increased in violence, and as the darkness grew he became uneasy, for he did not relish the thought of spending the night in the cave. He had parted from his companions on the opposite side of the island, and it added to his uneasiness that they must be full of apprehension about him. At last there came a lull in the storm, and the same instant he heard a footfall, stealthy and light as that of a wild beast, upon the bones at the mouth of the cave. He started up in some fear, though the least thought might have satisfied him that there could be no very dangerous animals upon the island. Before he had time to think, however, the face of a woman appeared in the opening. Eagerly the wanderer spoke. She started at the sound of his voice. He could not see her well, because she was turned towards the darkness of the cave.

    “Will you tell me how to find my way across the moor to Shielness?” he asked.

    “You cannot find it to-night,” she answered, in a sweet tone, and with a smile that bewitched him, revealing the whitest of teeth.

    “What am I to do, then?”

    “My mother will give you shelter, but that is all she has to offer.”

    “And that is far more than I expected a minute ago,” he replied. “I shall be most grateful.”

  • Tales from the Silent Planet

    Tales from the Silent Planet

    It was not always so. Once we knew the Oyarsa of your world—he was brighter and greater than I—and then we did not call it Thulcandra. It is the longest of all stories and the bitterest. He became bent. That was before any life came on your world. Those were the Bent Years of which we still speak in the heavens, when he was not yet bound to Thulcandra but free like us. It was in his mind to spoil other worlds besides his own.

    C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet

    It has all been one dirty trick: the books, the movies, the news articles. The storytelling and special effects have felt so real and so persistent that we started to think we have been to Rigel VII, Tatooine and LV-426. Every day it feels like we are on the verge of discovering distant alien civilizations with our powerful telescopes and listening satellite dishes. Christians might as well throw in the towel because any second now it’s all going to be proven as bunk.

    But none of that has happened. Science Fiction still remains science fiction (except perhaps the dystopian part they have an odd fascination with). We really haven’t discovered alien life elsewhere (UFO encounters notwithstanding) and the Big Bang still sounds just as silly as it always did. I think “they” know that, but a lie told long enough begins to be believed.

    What is wrong with most of these tales of wonder is that they are all steeped in pure and unadulterated materialism. In fact all of modern, Western society is steeped in this materialism and the culture machine that is Hollywood have changed the way we think about the world. Even as Christians, we think of the world as a series of physical causes and effects. We have started to believe that the only wonder in this world is what we can see on the Webb and Hubble telescopes (colorized and graphically altered for your viewing pleasure!).

    This is by design. If you don’t believe in the soul you won’t guard it. The human soul is under siege. We are surrounded by an army of nihilistic, materialists orcs. We are being starved out by siege towers designed by the finest brutalist architects. Orc soldiers wear deconstructed post-post-modern mail armor made of mostly chinks, because imperfections make us beautiful or something. Their swords are dull and held by the blade in order to be subversive. The soldiers themselves regularly indulge in alcoholism, depression, and a healthy dose of narcotics and now an alarming rate of castration. They are the sickly kine devouring the healthy kine in Pharaoh’s dream.

    The soul-cities that have not fallen are typically the Christian ones because, though cut off from the father heaven and mother earth in almost every way, they still get glimpses of the true structure of the universe in church. By this narrow resupply line the ramparts of the inner keep are still held. The enemy is largely through the gate and most defenders have retreated to that last extremity. It is not possible to lift the siege yet, but it is possible to sally forth and retake the city walls.

    The solution is to drop the orc way of thinking. Drop the science fiction materialism and the loser-heroes. Instead of thinking of the universe as a watch or a factory churning out “science,” think of the world as a cathedral being maintained by humans and invisible angels alike. Every ounce of matter is being driven by the commands of God who dispatches his ministering angels to be flames and winds. Consider the true meaning of the physical reality. For instance: the symbolic meaning of the tree as a mediator between Heaven and Earth is more important than learning about photosynthesis. Which sounds more bogus: dark matter or angels? The stars are billions of light years away and billions of years old. If that’s true who cares? How could this ever mean more than what God has said their purpose is? Which is more useful and pertinent to our existence?

    This WordPress blog is not the first to ask these strange questions. Many of us cut our teeth on C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy, especially the final volume That Hideous Strength. We followed Lewis’ train of thought back to the Middle Ages in his short book The Discarded Image. We discovered how wholly alien the Medieval mind was to our own and how horribly the modern mind has understood it. In light of this new knowledge, The Chronicles of Narnia made more sense. We read Tolkien’s essays, we found strange folks saying strange (read: old) things on Twitter and encountered podcasts and comic books from the fringe. Everything was up for grabs, everything could be questioned.

    What happens when you change your perspective and vocabulary? What happens when you drop the scientism and pick up the supernatural? What kind of stories would you tell? These stories are about the different perspective, the far older and far more useful perspective. We are not so much killing science as we are killing science fiction (you may use “redeem” if you’d like). Do counterfactual universes exist in the mind of God? Do angels travel through time as well as space? Why are cryptids always on the edge of our sight and pictures? Is it a hoax, or are spiritual creatures notoriously hard to see by lens and eye alike? Does the government communicate with demons believing them to be “aliens?” Maybe a nuclear blast is portal to hell.

    Our modern world is breaking down, and everyone knows it. Those materialist rules and thought-patterns are breaking down too. What rushes in and fills the vacuum? What devils and spirits haunt the desolate city? Read on.