From getting deep into the “Matter of the Splatter” via inventive, evocative lyrics penned for Exhumed and Gruesome to the text bubbles of the wild comic Howl a few years back, Matt Harvey has been on a delightfully deranged creative journey. But none of what has come before will quite prepare you for “The Vessel,” the death-metal-bar-raiser-turned-author’s brilliantly rendered mind-bending, reality-refracting cosmic horror novelette which appears alongside equally masterful spine-tinglers courtesy A.S. Coomer and Lucas Mangum in the must-own Grindhouse Press anthology Horrorama — edited by the great C.V. Hunt no less! (Out tomorrow; purchase direct from Exhumed’s Official Gore Emporium, Grindhouse Press, or over at the Amazon-dot-com.)
“I’ve always written for fun — and I’ve been doing a lot more of it the last few years,” Harvey tells Decibel. “I’ve found it’s a great way to pass time on tour, especially on the many interminable van/plane/bus rides that fill up so much of my time. A couple of years ago, I befriended an Exhumed fan who is an excellent writer named Rachel Deering — seriously, track down her stuff, I highly recommend it. Her novella Husk is a great place to start. We became buds I ended up officiating her wedding, where she introduced me to a friend of hers at Grindhouse Press. Her introduction was something like, ‘Harv’s a writer, you should publish one of his stories.’ I sheepishly explained that I wasn’t really a writer, but they published the story anyway, so I guess in hindsight, that was a lie, because now I am a writer.
“I developed ‘The Vessel’ from a shorter story I had sketched out about a deprogrammer and a Lovecraftian cult, and it sort of took on a life of its own from there. It was a lot of fun and a really exciting challenge to come up with the story. There are few things more satisfying than typing “the end” when you complete a written work. If I were to describe the story, I’d say it’s a cosmic horror / detective tale with more than its fair share of gore. Shocker, right?”
And now…the excerpt!
Slowly, the assembled Heralds of Celestial Ascension began to speak. Some of the neophytes mumbled haltingly at first, as the words were strange and hard to master. But as they repeated them, they grew strong and clear.
Ek Mynehli Shabba Kekh—Emerge!
Venth Mynehli Eb Supptu Kekh—Emerge!
With each repetition Annika’s tongue wrapped itself around the strange words more and more adeptly, her voice merging with the others, the chant filling her with a calm openness. Their voices coa- lesced into one, and with each repetition, she felt herself slipping away, being subsumed by the words. “Love is letting go,” the Elder had told her—letting go of expectations, of the ego, of the person she had been to embrace a truer reality — something deep and important. Whatever barely remembered doubts she had completely evaporated. All that remained was a warm, enveloping haze that was as close to love as she had ever experienced.
At her feet was the cause of her fading apprehensions, a naked cadaver, once a pretty brunette, trim and tall. Now her skin was a glacial blue, her eyes yellowing, pupils occluded with a milky glaze. Those dead, dull eyes gazed emptily up at nothing, oblivious to the figures that encircled their corpse and watched over it for the better part of a day. None of them looked at the dead woman’s eyes though—they watched her abdomen. Something was moving inside her, sending spasmodic ripples fluttering across her bluing flesh. At last, their Master was stirring.
All at once, from within the corpse’s thorax came a wet, gurgled chomp. The body’s lower half convulsed fitfully, legs twitching in a flurry of spasms. The chewing became more insistent, each bite accompanied by an oozing, billowing motion across the dead woman’s stomach, like watching a ripple across a lake from underwater. Her corpse twitched more and more violently now, threshing in mute convulsions. The legs splayed out in unnatural angles, and the bones snapped with a sound like twigs trampled underfoot as the contor- tions whiplashed through her extremities.
The carcass’s legs having been wrenched sufficiently akimbo, the thrashing ceased. Before long, a moist sucking sound emanated from the corpse’s distended abdomen, a gurgling, gagging swallow of some foul-smelling fluid. Then, all at once, a gush of blackened ooze erupted with tremendous force from between the body’s legs, spurting through the birth canal like an aberrant mockery of a pregnant woman’s water breaking. This deluge of filth was followed by a wet, belching slosh. After the initial ejaculation, the foul-hued gunk con- tinued to leak slowly from between her splattered thighs, dripping onto the floor and filling the room with an overpowering reek. Warm and acidic, the smell was of something older and more wretched than decay. The gnawing continued to increase in volume as their Master drew closer, bite following bite more rapidly, gnashing toward a repugnant crescendo. The sounds of splintering bone and cartilage filled the room and one of the neophytes dropped their corner of the cradle and vomited. As the malodorous atmosphere and nerve-wracking clangor of the chewing reached an intolerable zenith, the corpse’s pelvis burst open with a final, wrenching creak. Shards of bone, sinew, and a torrent of polluted blood, sultry with the remnants of the black ooze, sprayed all over the room. The cradle and the remaining neophyte bearing it were drenched in the thick, syrupy fluid, and the one who vomited fainted dead away in a corner, collapsing into the puddle of still-warm sick at their feet.
The flesh that remained of the corpse’s pelvis, blossomed like the petals of some hideous, malformed flower, was hanging on the shards of the ilia, glistening with blood befouled by the black secre- tion. It dripped from the shredded cartilage and sinew like morning dew on blades of grass. From this gore-soaked aperture, the Master of these hooded devotees finally emerged. For some of them, this was their first time laying eyes upon the creature. Whatever they were told to expect was insufficient to prepare them.