The monsters aren’t only in the museum!
Despite a lifetime of traveling with their father to collect strange artifacts, twins Topaz and Opal Cushing have never fully believed in monsters or the supernatural. Oh, sure, they share an eerie psychic connection, and their tarot card readings often come true, but… Werewolves? Vampires? Living mummies? None of those could be real. Those legends are just for rubes. Right?
Since the girls’ father has been away, though, strange things have been happening in the family’s little exhibit—and in the waxworks studio that shares their dilapidated Victorian mansion on the outskirts of London. Now, the twins’ dreams of a fun, romantic summer season are turning into a nightmare, and the monsters are running…
Dr. Cushing’s Chamber of Horrors!
Print Length: 437 pages
Publisher: Walkabout Publishing (August 30, 2020)
Publication Date: August 30, 2020
The Landlord Tours the Chamber (from Chapter 2)
“We’re sorry we haven’t kept up with the rent,” Topaz said.
“We’re trying so hard,” her sister put in.
“Maybe if you understood our business better, Madame Duprix, you could give us some tips,” Topaz suggested. “After all, you run a successful waxwork, and have a lot more experience in business and such.”
“Topaz is right,” Opal agreed. “With your help, I’m sure our new exhibit would be much more successful—and we could get up to date on the rent in no time.”
Victoria knew that the twins were trying to change the subject, to distract her from her rent-collecting mission…
Yet, the flattery felt good. And what harm could it do to have these scruffy moppets dote on her—if only for a little while—before she lowered the boom on them?
“Very well,” Victoria said. “How should we begin?”
“We could show you around the chamber,” Topaz suggested.
“We’ve never given you the full tour before,” Opal added.
Victoria crinkled her nose; the very idea of plodding about their sordid attraction was distasteful, but…
“Yes. Please, show me around your so-called business,” she told the pair.
Both girls bowed slightly and parted so that Victoria could precede them into the exhibit.
Dr. Cushing’s Chamber of Horrors was a dark and dismal place (thought what did she expect?) with occasional glimmering pinpricks of light. In those spotlights, Victoria could make out a collection of strange objects, some familiar—a skull, a shaggy rug framed and hanging on a wall, some weapons—while others remained elusive and unrecognizable.
“Before we begin,” Topaz said, pausing on the top step of the exhibit’s entryway, “it is important to note that all the items that you are about to see are genuine paranormal artifacts, collected at great expense by Dr. Leigh Cushing himself, during his world-spanning expeditions.”
Victoria huffed at “great expense.” Great expense at slacking on the rent, she thought. But clearly this was part of the girls’ patter—just as she had a script to greet people entering the waxworks. For now, at least, she would indulge them.
“Some of the supernatural items in Dr. Cushing’s collection are, in fact, dangerous,” Topaz continued. “So please be sure to observe the ‘Do Not Touch’ signs and other warnings. They are there for your safety, as well as the safety of the group.”
“We’ll start with the End of the World,” Opal announced, picking up the tour from her sister. She indicated a fist-sized black stone, spotlighted atop a pedestal. “This is the fabled Meteor of Tunguska, the explosion of which flattened nearly a thousand square miles of Russian forest on the morning of June 30th, 1908.”
“That tiny rock?” Victoria said skeptically.
“Of course, this is only a fragment of the original,” Opal explained. “Most of it was vaporized in the explosion. If it had exploded over London, rather than in the wastes of Siberia, the city would have been destroyed—killing millions.”
Victoria stifled a yawn, though she could see that the girl was impressed by her own story.
The sisters looked at each other nervously.
“Over here, we have the Siamese Mermaid,” Topaz said, pointing to a wizened, three-foot-long oddity inside a glass case. It appeared to be a shriveled monkey with two heads and the tail of a carp. Its skin, what there was of it, looked like leather.
“Like its more famous cousin, now traveling the United States, this creature was collected in the South Seas. Not in Fiji, though. This particular mermaid came from the islands of the Philippines—as did the next item in our tour: the scales of an actual Filipino Fish-Wife. These seductive creatures are rumored to be beautiful women by day, only to turn into fish-like monsters by night.”
Victoria looked at the scales, which rested in a yellowing glass jar near the so-called mermaid. The scales were the size of a shilling coin and greenish blue in color. Probably from a larger carp, Victoria thought, her patience already wearing thin.
No wonder these addle-pated waifs couldn’t pay the rent.
“Yes, yes, yes,” she said, “I’m sure that’s all very nice. But I’ve seen the likes of these things in every sideshow from here to Aberdeen. I hope you have better attractions for paying customers than this lot.”
The girls exchanged worried glances.
“The pelt of the Beast of Gevaudan,” Opal said, pointing to a huge, shaggy reddish-black wolf skin framed and hanging on the wall. “In eighteenth-century France, this monster attacked over two-hundred people—and killed more than one hundred! It’s said that no normal weapon could pierce its hide, and that only a bullet blessed by the Pope himself finally brought the beast down.”
“It looks more like a mangy bear rug than a wolf skin,” Victoria observed.
About the Author
Stephen D. Sullivan has over sixty published titles to his name and helped create more comics and games than he can either list or remember.
A Scribe award-winner for “Best Novel Adaptation, 2016” with his book Manos: The Hands of Fate, Sullivan lives with his wife in a small town in Wisconsin.
You can contact him via Twitter, Facebook, Patreon, or on his website: www.stephendsullivan.com
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