"Run-of-the-mill" seems like a modestly accurate way to describe myself in terms of horror fandom. In certain respects I find that valuable, since ideally I can make an appeal to those like myself, to those who may be testing the waters, and hopefully to the hardcore horror fans as well. (And I sincerely encourage feedback, especially from the latter.) It wasn't until several years ago, the present time of this writing being December of '09 to give perspective, that the genre genuinely appealed to me and I owe all that to the film adaptation of Stephen King's 'IT'. After that, it was a slow and steady progression that grew into watching more Stephen King film adaptations, then into watching general horror films. In more recent years it's branched from solely films into different mediums, namely: comics (comic books, manga, graphic novels, webcomics, etc.), purely written literature, and different games.

But let's get to the point, shall we? The Darkley Niche is something I've constructed after the comic-in-progress that a friend and myself plan on self-publishing, an anthology of short horror stories much in the same vein as 'Tales from the Crypt' and similar titles. The series centers around a faceless persona we've affectionately dubbed Alan Darkley, the Niche's namesake, and a cast of storytellers whose tales fall within particular subgenres and sister genres of horror. This site is the drawing board, if you will, where everything posted is either a form of research or a roughing out of ideas. It's all relevant in some fashion. By exploring these different horror stories and their mediums a better understanding and influence of the genre, as well as inspiration, can be put into the comic. Even if you have no personal interest in the project, perhaps you can glean something from the reviews and the like. And if nothing else, the Niche will work to serve my own purposes.

Be sure to browse over the column of banners below if you're looking for posts on a particular topic. (And at the very bottom of the blog, if you would like to consult the complete listing of post labels.) Otherwise, scroll down past them to get to the most recent articles. Likewise, refer to the right side for our latest tweets.

Meet The Darkley Storytellers

Meet The Darkley Storytellers

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Well, here's yours truly. The name's Drew, in case you were wondering. The Niche is my personal site, while the comic-in-progress is a partnered effort with Don, a lifelong friend of mine. We collaborate on the stories, but my partner's the writer in the outfit while I am the illustrator. This is currently little more than a side project, but we hope to make something of it.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Goosebumps: Let's Get Invisible!

Presenting the sixth, on-going installment of the Niche's R.L. Stine series reviews, here's 'Let's Get Invisible!' (WARNING: spoilers ahead)

It's a special day today for two different reasons. For one, it is Max's twelfth birthday. The second? It's also the first day that he turns invisible. The story begins with Max, a rather conscientious boy, combing his hair which he claims is his best personal feature. His younger brother Noah, who goes commonly by "Lefty" since he is left-handed, is your typical annoying sibling and pesters Max until the guests come. First arrives Zack, Max's best friend, sporting a new haircut with the left side partially shaved and a gift of old comics. Next arrive Erin and April, completing the circle of friends. Unfortunately the rain has canceled the planned barbecue and outdoor activities. Passing the time with Twister and the first half of 'Terminator', the party dwindles down. Zack takes his leave and the girls remain, waiting for Erin's mother to pick them up.

In the meantime, the children decide to go upstairs to Max's bedroom (if they were older, I could see some shenanigans going on). But after a cheap scare from Lefty, who waited in the linen closet to jump out, Erin takes notice of the attic. Erin, a rather cute girl with short blond hair and a mousy voice, becomes very interesting in exploring the old attic. Max has a small crush on her, so concedes with her rather odd request. Along with the four is Whitey the family dog, who, as it turns out, is actually all black. Sniffing around the attic, Whitey paws at an otherwise unnoticed door. Curious, the children force the obstinate hinges and find a tall mirror inside the small, dark room. The only apparent source of illumination is a lamp light looming at the top of the mirror frame. Noticing a chain dangling down, Max gives it a pull. A sudden flash nearly blinds him for a moment, then dims to a more comfortable brightness. Erin, April, and Lefty look afraid, much to Max's confusion, then explain that they cannot see him.

Annoyed by this apparent practical joke and aggravated by the light, which has begun to be painful, Max pulls the chain again to turn it off. The other three are startled, but very relieved that Max has returned. But Max remains skeptical and tells Erin to prove it, to turn invisible herself, but before she can her mother arrives. The girls leave and the matter goes untouched until a couple of days later. Unable to shake what the others said, Max goes up to the attic alone one night to get some peace of mind. While he's examining the mirror, Lefty comes up from behind and gives him another cheap scare. Bothered by his little brother, but afraid of waking his parents, Max relents and together decide to test the mirror at the same time. After pulling the chain, the lamp light flashes on and they both turn invisible simultaneously. Fooling around for a few minutes, they turn the light off. However, it takes a few minutes for them to turn visible again. It seems that the longer a person stays invisible, the longer it takes for them to return.

Next Saturday, Zack comes over to visit. Having left earlier when the birthday party ended, Zack is still unaware of the mirror. Max and Lefty take advantage of this and decide to have some fun with him. In the attic, Max savors the suspense it overtakes him and then uses the mirror to turn invisible before Zack's eyes. Skeptical at first, then frightened, and finally amazed, Zack wants to try when Max returns. However Max is hesitant. During his disappearance, Max has begun to realize the gravity of the situation. Nobody knew where the mirror came from or how it even worked. Who was to say returning was guaranteed? And while in a state of invisibility, Max has noticed a strange, unsettling feeling that grows stronger the longer he's gone. First a painful sensitivity to the light, then a lightheaded sensation, followed by a rather scary feeling of floating away and losing your grip on the physical world. Of course Max keeps most of this to himself, not wanting to appear afraid. So when Erin and April pop up into the attic soon afterward, things gradually get out of Max's control.

A rather dangerous game develops: who can stay invisible the longest? First Zack, next Erin, then Max again, despite his hesitance. Going on four minutes and counting, Max feels the light enveloping him like ocean waves, pulling him away from the shore of reality as the people around him grow distant. Max desperately pleads for someone to pull the chain. His faint voice manages to carry over and Zack hurries to turn off the light, but to their horror the chain breaks. Fortunately, Erin scrounges around inside the lamp and finds just enough of the chain left to grip. Several minutes later Max returns, but even this scare isn't enough to deter the others from competing. April however, who has been resistant to the entire thing, gets worked up enough to speak out against it. "None of you are listening to me!" she cries, adding, "Answer my question. What if one of you is invisible and the light won't go out?" But their argument is interrupted when grandparents Poppy and Grammy arrive. So the friends leave, but Erin and Zack remain determined to beat the new record of five minutes, forty-eight seconds.

After seeing his friends out, Max comes to the dinner table to greet his grandparents and take a seat. Except something, or rather someone, is amiss. Like an idiot, Lefty has turned himself invisible and picks up his soup bowl from the table in a juvenile attempt to be funny. Max notices before anyone else at the table does and manages to get Lefty to follow him back upstairs to the attic and turn visible. Max is furious but Lefty is too stoked being the new record holder to care, annoyingly repeating, "I win! I win!" Despite being invisible for nearly ten minutes, Lefty claims that he felt fine the entire time. Since everyone else has been downplaying what they've felt, it's hard to say with any certainty if he's telling the truth. His testimony is even more questionable after Max makes him swear to not use the mirror by himself again, but crosses his fingers on both hands. Later that night, Max sneaks back to the mirror alone and stares at it for the longest time until he hears a whisper coming from the mirror, quietly calling his name. This frightens him enough to hurry downstairs and into bed, praying that the whisper would not follow.

The next morning, Max wakes early to get ready with the rest of the family for their visit to Springfield to see relatives. As he gets ready, Max's attention is caught by the hovering red t-shirt that comes out of his bedroom closet. Angry that Left had broken his promise, Max demands that he march right back up to the attic and turn visible again. However, Max's anger soon turns to worry when Lefty suddenly drops a pair of jeans that he was moving across the room. He calls for his younger brother, but receives no answer. He hurries up to the attic, frantically searching for Lefty. To Max's relief he answers this time and reappears, however something seems a little off with Lefty. Unable to put his finger on it, though, Max puts it out of his mind and goes back to getting himself around. Deciding to call his friends and cancel the competition once they've reached Springfield, Max feels reassured as he finishes dressing. No more mirror, no more turning invisible. But of course we know better, now don't we?

Wednesday morning, Zack, Erin, and April appear at Max's front door. Lefty, who isn't there that morning, called each of them, saying that Max had changed his mind about the competition. (Hmmm. Now why would Lefty do this, I wonder?) This puts Max in a predicament, of course, since he had not and he easily buckles to his friends. Even April, who was previously adamantly against it, has come around and wants to give the mirror a try. So the children head to the attic to continue the competition. After accidentally turning Whitey invisible with April, her turn is cut short. Next goes Erin, who remains invisible for over twelve minutes and was returned when she stopped answering. The others seem alright with continuing, but Max isn't relieved. Something seems different about Erin. Zack takes his turn and, like Erin, is brought back after thirteen minutes when he doesn't answer. (But not before he has some fun juggling tomatoes in front of a neighbor.) Also like Erin, something is not right with him. Max notices that his hair is styled the other way, but Zack denies it, saying it's simply Max's imagination.

Now it comes to Max's turn. At least this time he has the sense to refuse, content to let Zack remain the new champion. But Erin and Zack are having none of that. Rather forcefully, they move him towards the mirror and turn on the light. Invisible now, he seems to settle with it and waits until the uneasy feelings start to creep up on him. Unfortunately, as the uneasiness grows stronger and he tells them to turn off the light, Max's mother comes upstairs into the attic before it can be done. At this point, no one hears his voice and Max floats into the mirror against his will, into "the center of an undulating, rolling world of twisting lights and colors". Deeper inside still, the colors change to shades of gray and black, which gradually fade 'til everything around Max is white. And in this white void Max meets none other than his own reflection, cold and sinister. Inside the void are dozens of distorted, tormented "fun house mirror" faces, among them include Erin and Zack.

As it turns out, Erin and Zack have been switched by doppelgangers of the dastardly sort and this reflection means to do the same to Max. But through sheer willpower and fear Max strains through the incoherent colors and shimmer, crossing back over to the other side. When the other Erin and Zack see that he is not one of them, however, they force Max back to the mirror and turn the light on, turning him invisible again. Max's reflection, unlike before, remained in the mirror this time, palms pressed against the glass, assuring Max, "In a few minutes, you'll join me in here." Meanwhile Max's mother had gone back downstairs and poor April is scared half out of her wits. Then, out of nowhere, Lefty comes upstairs and throws the ball at the mirror, apparently thinking that it is Max, shouting, "Think fast!" The glass shatters, Max becomes visible, the evil reflections of Erin and Zack are pulled into the shards, and the real pair of friends return. Everything's back to normal... right? Maybe not. As Max and his brother toss a baseball back and forth between them later, he notices that Lefty is throwing right-handed.

I was pleasantly pleased with the story in 'Let's Turn Invisible!', which I wasn't expecting. Personally, I couldn't imagine how turning invisible would be scary, even if the condition became permanent. Turns out that it was all just a lure used by the mirror. The world within the mirror and the reflection doppelgangers is what made the book, even if it was near the end. Point is, it went in a creative direction. At the most I suspected that the children might turn into ghosts, the way they described sensations of feeling light and turning ethereal. Glad that it wasn't so predictable. I give it four out of five Goosebumps Gs.

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