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I live with my wife, Veleta, our three dogs, Lovecraft, Dickens, and Lafferty, and our two cats, Plato, and Kafka, in Fairbanks Alaska. I've been writing seriously now for a long while and I also work part time for an agency that provides services to kids with emotional and behavior problems. Writing has become the dominant force in my life and I recently realized that I would rather be an unsuccessful writer than a successful anything else. Fantasy of all kinds, as well as science fiction and horror have always been a big part of my life. My writing groups, Critters, Camprobbers, Fangs, and First Draft play a big part in my life. I'm a member of SF&FWA, HWA, and also a graduate of Clarion West '95


A Horror A Day: 365 Scary Stories, Cthulhu's Heirs, Demon Sex, 100 Crafty Cat Crimes

Print Magazines

Aberrations, Bardic Runes, Between Dimensions, Bloodsongs, Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, Midnight Zoo, Mystic Fiction (3), Plot, Scavenger's Newsletter, Shadow Sword, Silver Web, Sirius Visions, Space and Time, Symphonie's Gifts, Talebones, Transversions.


Catacombs Magazine, E-scape, Gothic Net, Spaceways Weekly, Storisiende Verlag, Through Darkling Glass, Outside: Speculative and Dark Fiction.

Twelve of my previously published stories can be found on the internet through Alexandria Digital Literature (
Try also: Joe Murphy

Deep Outside SFFH 1998-2002 pioneering online professional SFFH magazine - we made history!

At Helsonor's Grave

by Joe Murphy

"Helsonor," Eduard glared at them, lips drawn into a feral snarl, "was the queen of egomaniacs."
   "Oh hardly." Bob threw up his hands, disgusted with the two fools who shared his fate. Knowing the argument was as inevitable as all the others, he looked down at the dark shadow of the pyramidic tombstone where it spilled across the ice-mottled earth. Wan, winter twilight merged into tangible form as a gray mist crawling silently among the dead grasses and weeds.
   "It wasn't so when I first met her, but our last meeting proved her vindictiveness." Jock's watery blue eyes bulged ever so slightly from a gaunt face. His voice might have mocked or placated; it was too hoarse for Bob to be certain. "We were engaged for six months. The best times of my life."
   "Winter months," Eduard muttered, "cold as hell up in Alaska, I imagine."
   "To be sure." Jock smiled, eyes no longer focused but staring into the cloud-streaked horizon. "She'd come to Fairbanks to study the aurora. We met in that little Italian restaurant downtown."
   "Giovanni's." Bob couldn't help adding. His hands dug deep into his pockets as a cold wind sliced through his thin suit.
   "She sat at the bar," Eduard said, "hard, bleak stars twinkling through the picture window and hiding in her ravenesque hair."
   Jock nodded. "I introduced myself to her as Nicholas Renoir, intent upon a one-night fling of course. Helsonor was such a tiny thing, and so thin...."
   "The bitch was skinny as a bulimic rake." Bob grinned, shrugging off the other's worried glances.
   "As you say." Jock stopped to brush a dead leaf from the sleeve of his overcoat. "I preferred buxom women in those days. She seemed so sweet, soft-spoken. I made her the sole topic of conversation and soon had her eating out of my hand. Oh we spent many a night perched upon the steeply sloping roof of the Seven Gables; the aurora swirling above us, pulsing silver and red in ghostly pastels."
   "Yet you left her," Bob hated the sight of them and gazed at the hard-packed grave, "after a beautiful proposal."
   "You're correct of course." The scuffed toe of Jock's Wellington boot poked at a clump of frozen earth. "Her green eyes were always wide with wonder. You should have seen the aurora dancing in them. I still remember how they crinkled at the corners, almost like finely written hieroglyphics. I was her first, as you know, her first true love."
   "Yet something went wrong." Bob studied the frost etched like scars upon the stone.
   "Only after the proposal. We were sitting in the Howling Dog that very evening and she suggested Hot Toddies. Now I loathe Hot Toddies, but found myself sucking them down anyway. I could never remember afterwards, who brought up marriage first. While I soon realized she wasn't yet aware of her ability, I knew that if I didn't act quickly, I'd spend the rest of my days as her servant."
   "So you bought two tickets on the train to Anchorage," Bob said, stamping his feet to end the numb tingling within his second-hand wing tips.
   "I carried her aboard the train myself, a silver engine, the cars with elegant canopies to view the night sky. Then, just as the engine started, I jumped off and spent the night in the arms of another." Jock hung his head sadly.
   "Still, you learned from the experience," Eduard said.
   "Indeed, sir. For I could never force her soft, contralto voice from my mind." Jock took off his battered hat, clutching the narrow brim in both hands. "She saw me leap from the train and I heard her crying 'Come back to me, my love.' The next morning I flew to Anchorage, unable to help myself, but she was already gone. The rest of my life was spent in a futile search for her."
   "Which succeeded only when she lay dying," Eduard said, "and you never loved another woman all those years."
   "Which certainly proves Helsonor was vindictive." Bob shook his head, full himself of the sorrow gripping the other man's long face. "Or else you wouldn't be here with us. But it makes my point and Eduard's as well."
   "I must maintain Egomania was her dominant trait." Eduard spoke up. "As you'll recall, I'm the only one among you who knew Helsonor after she married that...that...."
   "Don't even say it." Bob's hands clenched into fists. "We know who you mean."
   "Quite right," Jock added.
   "It was as brief and sordid affair as any I've had." Eduard's breathless whisper barely broke the stillness.
   "And you've had many." Jock smiled without warmth.
   "We can't go into that, of course." Eduard winked at him. "But it's true. I have always found other men's wives more to my appetite."
   "We know," Bob said, "go on, please."
   "We met in Arkham, in one of those wretched little espresso shacks where both cups and souls are permanently stained." Eduard grinned and spat. "Her eyes were like agate locked in ice, cold with calculation, green with knowledge. How distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December...."
   "He really gets poetic sometimes." Jock's thin, leathery face bore a look of admiration.
   "He stole it," Bob said. "He steals lines like he steals women."
   "And make them my own." Eduard's eyes swiveled in their sockets, focusing upon each in turn. "Alas, I had her in the rest room, right atop the john. We spent half the night in that seething embrace. Patrons kept bursting in, gawking at us. It made her climax. Then she'd continue telling me about herself. She'd lost her demure aurora of innocence by then, as you both know. She even joked of her husband's temper. Would that I had listened...."
   Bob nodded, shivering as the wind picked up. Cold air stirred the leafless treetops as late evening wound its way to darkness. Gray clouds reddened in the night, lit by the surrounding city. Muffled car horns and engine noise keened through the cemetery.
   "He caught you," Jock said flatly.
   "Of course. In the end, her husband was the only one she really desired. You'll remember I laid all the blame upon her. I said she'd followed me in and flung herself at me."
   "How flattering," Bob observed.
   "It almost worked," Eduard sneered, "she really was thrilled for it made her the central figure, the topic of conversation and a notorious one. The society tabloids actually ran a story about it."
   "Come now," Jock said, "that's a bit hard to believe. She wasn't a social climber."
   "It's true, it's true." Eduard squinted at him in the darkness. "Perhaps not when you knew her, but she loved the fuss, being the center of attention and all. Then, after her husband finished with me, I resolved never to lie again. I too had learned something. Her husband kept us apart until she called me from her deathbed."
   "You think that proves your point?" Jock laughed.
   "She sought attention." Eduard glared at him. "She was always seeking attention. That proves she's an egomaniac."
   "As you both know," Bob said, stretching his arms overhead until the various parts of his spine crackled, "we met in the middle of her life. The wonder was gone from her eyes leaving them empty, waiting to be filled. Now it's true she valued revenge, and certainly she was meant to dwell at the center of all things--but to me, it was always the power she commanded, her compelling voice that marked her."
   "You met her in Tibet." Eduard licked his sore-stained lips.
   "An uncharted valley where the cosmic lines converge," Bob said. "I had gone there with he who became her husband. An unwise alliance but we were interested in certain relics."
   "You came to love her during the trip," Jock said.
   "As you stepped upon ancient stones, carved to look like human bones," Eduard agreed.
   "We functioned as a single soul." Bob blinked back tears, whether from sorrow or cold he couldn't tell. "Only one of the artifacts we'd searched for remained. A magnificent vase, but the market price would barely pay my airfare."
   "So you stole it and left her broke, at the mercy of another," Jock said.
   "I kissed her soundly and tried to explain I just wasn't ready for marriage. She took it poorly though, 'I'll have you forever,' she shrieked. I took off running...."
   "And she spoke to your parka, compelled your very boots to return." Jock's evenly spaced teeth gleamed in the darkness like fireflies upon their deathbeds.
   "She seemed so sweet and helpless," Bob said. "After that I learned never to trust a woman's appearance again. I became a confirmed bachelor. And they were the best boots I ever owned." He tried to ignore the numb ache where his toes had once been and gazed at the others.
   "It's a sad, sad, business." Jock looked down at the grave.
   "I hope the wind doesn't get any higher," Eduard added, "it'll blow me over again."
   "We'll set you up, old comrade." Bob looked at the man, nothing more than a head impaled upon a broken branch from a spruce tree.
   "So you see," he continued, "her power was her most outstanding trait."
   Jock's shrug was almost imperceptible in the huge, flapping overcoat. As Bob watched the man jerked the leather belt at his waist, tightening it to the very last notch.
   "Well, it's her vindictiveness that brought us all together," Jock said.
   "Her egomania arranged this fate," Eduard argued.
   Bob glared at them. For the thousandth time he tried to run from Helsonor's grave and leave the two fools to their prattle; instead he spoke, "Yet it's Helsonor's power to compel which forces us to stand here discussing her until we rot."
   "We've reached an impasse again." Jock scratched his thinning scalp with a claw-like hand. "Another round?"
   "As if we had a choice," Bob said. "Perhaps her husband could decide, whatever happened to him anyway?"
   "Oh he's down there with her." Eduard's eyes rolled toward the grave. "Let's keep him out of it if you don't mind. I can't begin to tell you what a jealous son of a bitch he was."

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