The Last Trumpet
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by Stephen Mark Rainey
Description: The night the stars fell, we could hear the sounds: that low thump-thump from somewhere in the sky, like the beating of some gigantic heart... In Sylvan County, Virginia, strange sounds often accompany the coming of darkness. They drift among the remote and shadowed hills, mountains, and valleys as if with a purpose ... cognizant ... alive. Like an ominous fugue, this music emanates from portals unknown, weaving a soundtrack for the night itself ... a dirge for those who dare to venture into the mysterious and forbidding spheres beyond sound. Each of the stories in The Last Trumpet stands on its own; but over the course of the book, they form a progression that leads to the book's chilling, definitive climax. Inspired by the works of H. P. Lovecraft, The Last Trumpet is a shining entry in the realm of Cthulhu Mythos fiction, from one of this genre's most prolific authors.
eBook Publisher: Wildside Press, 2000
eBookwise Release Date: February 2002
5 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [401 KB]
Reading time: 255-357 min.
Introduction by Stephen Mark Rainey
The stories in this collection represent the work of many years, having been composed for many different purposes and published in a wide variety of books and magazines. A number of you who are familiar with my work have occasionally wondered if certain of my tales with particular common, underlying threads might ever be published together, thus presenting the definitive beginning and ending (if such is possible) of what Robert M. Price has sometimes termed "The Fugue Devil Cycle." Well, here they are, packaged as something resembling a chronology--a chronology based not on the dates the stories were written but on a rough sequence of events that unfolds within their contexts.
All of these tales have appeared previously, but all have been revised for this collection--some only minimally, others quite extensively. When I originally wrote them, especially the earliest ones, I had no real intent to link one to another beyond tangentially correlating some of them to H. P. Lovecraft's The Music of Erich Zann. But the first of these, titled Threnody, somewhat inadvertently became the cornerstone for an ever-increasing number of works designed to explore some of the myriad possible tenets of the original theme. It was in Threnody that certain characters and settings crystallized and became pivotal elements of tales that were to follow. Aiken Mill, Beckham, and Barren Creek--communities in the fictional Sylvan county, located in the mountains of southwestern Virginia--first came into being in Threnody, as did the Asberry family that plays a pivotal role in this first tale as well as in subsequent storylines. (Actually, the town of Aiken Mill originated in an earlier, otherwise unrelated story titled The Arms of Doom, which I did not feel warranted inclusion in this book.) These settings are patterned after the locality where I was raised in Virginia, a place that has--thankfully--largely retained its unique rural, southern flavor, in contrast to so many other communities I've known and cared about, which have been transformed into the miasma of generic strip malls, congested commercial areas, and characterless suburban sprawl that are the trademarks of what our materialistic, overpopulated generation so adroitly terms "progress."
Some of you will have heard this little aside before, but I think it bears repeating here. While there is a distinct parallel to HPL's Arkham in "Beckham" and its resident school of higher learning, the actual inspiration for this community is the town and college of Ferrum, Virginia. The college's founder was named Samuel Beckham, and the occasional moments "on location" in my stories are based directly on my experiences at this off-the-beaten-track and subtly alluring locale. In Franklin and Henry Counties, Virginia, there are numerous places of commerce bearing the name "Beckham." The similarity to Arkham, while undeniable, was (at least initially) a happy coincidence.
Fugue Devil, the original version of which appeared in my first collection, Fugue Devil & Other Weird Horrors (Macabre Inc. 1993), remains one of my personal favorite tales, as its premise was drawn from a particularly traumatic dream I had as an adolescent. It was a true night-horror, one that woke me in a cold sweat three separate times. Each time I managed to get back to sleep, the dream took up right where it left off. Except for one other instance that might possibly compare, I have never had such an experience since that time; a fact I very nearly lament. At that young, impressionable period of life, this dream left an indelible mark in my brain, and in 1991, after 20 years of (at least occasionally) struggling to find a way to transfer relevant portions of the dream into a viable work of fiction, at long last Fugue Devil found its way onto paper. Perhaps not altogether strangely, its sequel, The Devil's Eye, also came from a dream--one that occurred more than 25 years after the original. This second dream did not represent a sequel to the story Fugue Devil per se; it actually followed the events of the actual dream that I first had in 1971, there or abouts.
I have always been drawn to music, and over the years music has frequently served as a powerful creative catalyst to my writing. It was only natural that, when I read HPL's The Music of Erich Zann back in college, I found myself swept away by the concept of music--and sound--as a force, something that possesses inherent power, be it spiritual or purely physical. Over the years, as I have found myself being called back to Aiken Mill and Barren Creek, I often still hear the strange, dreamlike music that haunts those places. The stories that developed after Threnody simply demanded to be written, like lyrics to a subliminal, rambling piece of music that refuses to find any sort of resolution without the words to accompany it.
I hope that as you read you will hear those ghostly strains yourself, perhaps so dim and distant that it plays just beyond your grasp. Sometimes I think it is best not to try to understand just what it is or why it is there. It is both comforting and disturbing, for it represents the familiarity of people, places, and things I have known intimately in the past, yet always hints that something else entirely might lie behind it--or perhaps waits at the conclusion of the fugue.