COLANDERS AND THE KALLIKANTZAROI • by James Zahardis

A heron perched in a mangrove tree glanced at the old pickup. Its tires crushed the shells lining the driveway leading to the back of a coral-pink house.

An unshaven man in shorts and a sleeveless River Monsters tee-shirt hopped out of the truck and grabbed a fishing rod from its bed. He looked at the soupy water of the Florida Intracoastal Waterway that snaked across the length of the backyard and shouted, “Come on, Johnny! Get your butt in gear, man! Tides comin’ in! Porgies and drum are comin’ in!”

Johnny cracked open the ratty screen door and looked out. He appeared threadbare and wan.

“What’s up, Tim?”

“Hard night?” Tim replied.

Nights.”

Johnny slung open the screen door, banging it into a rusty colander leaning against the side of the house.

“Oh! Not that bullshit with the spaghetti strainer again!”

“Yep. Got another one by the front door too.”

Tim teasingly shook his head. “Whatever. Let’s fish. I didn’t forget the bait if you didn’t forget the beer.”

***

The friends sat on fraying five-and-dime lawn chairs by the barnacle-encrusted seawall. Tim looked down at the human-like teeth of an undersized porgy he was unhooking and turned toward the heron walking across the lawn, eying the fish.

“Catch and release or give this one to Old Petey?”

“Let it go. That pain-in-the-ass mooch needs to catch ‘em on its own.”

“Dude, you’re such a drag. Every year, same old shit after Christmas — what is it with you?”

“I think about Yaya — Grandma — this time of the year. She passed away three days after Christmas when I was a kid…heart attack,” Johnny replied.

“Oh, my bad.”

There was silence, silence broken by the raucous cry of a soaring gull.

“Back when I was eight, we went to see Yaya in Icaria.”

“Where’s that?”

“It’s a remote Greek island. She had a little whitewash house near an olive grove overlooking the Aegean. You could smell the salt when the wind blew. Salt and olives.”

“Cool.”

“She was a great cook: goat, stuffed grape leaves, killer avgolemono soup.”

“So you put out spaghetti strainers to remember her cooking?”

The sky darkened, as a slate-hued cloud scudded overhead, laden with water and lightning.

“No, it’s not that,” Johnny said. Tendrils of the dark cloud extended earthward, accentuating the shadows on his face. “Yaya put colanders by the outside doors from Christmas to Epiphany. She believed that it prevented the Kallikantzaroi — ”

“ — Cowlick-Can’t-Zowie-What?”

“The old folks believed in devious goblins, the Kallikantzaroi. Yaya said they stay underground all year, sawing away at the roots of the World Tree. But they come up when the sun is lowest in the sky, during the Twelve Days of Christmas, to terrorize folks living on the islands.”

“So how’s the spaghetti strainer fit into the picture?”

“It keeps them from entering the house. They like to count. They find the colander and start counting the holes, over and over, until the sun comes up. Then poof, they vanish,” Johnny said, feeling a tug on his fishing rod. He began to reel in what felt like a dead weight.

Stagnant wavelets broke in the shallows beneath the seawall, wavelets parted by the long, flaying legs of a hideously misshapen crustacean.

“Nice spider crab, Johnny!” Tim called out, patting his friend on the shoulder.

Johnny shook the crab off the hook, plopping it back into the canal. He dropped the rod on the lawn and grew pale. “I need to go inside for a few — the sun, the beers….” he said, turning for the house.

***

Like he was revolving in a nightmare, Johnny found himself in a familiar position: leaning over the bathroom sink, water running into the basin, brimming to the rim. He plunged his face into the water that seemed to bear the potency of the Aegean in the days preceding the Epiphany:

it is the twilight of fatigue-green plastic army men beneath olive trees as the fulgent fiery sun setting over a vanquishing army needing higher ground no retreating as I am just returning with Yaya’s old colander to line plastic sharpshooters along its dented rim and fill its hollow with infantry and bazooka men and Daddy is calling and I am leaving the army men with their rusty vantage point and soon I am in bed encompassed by oblivion blackness and waking WAKING to sounds of scraping on the back door leading to the porch then a kelpy SHLUMP and then tiny legs thousands of tiny legs countless tiny legs crawling now and I am in the hallway standing in the doorway Yaya’s bedroom Yaya is sleeping Yaya is waking Yaya is frozen in horror

she/we saw IT

bloated sausage body scorpion pinchers countless daddy-long-leg-like-legs on Yaya’s chest twitching on Yaya’s chest arched twitching daddy-long-leg-like-legs on Yaya’s chest and Yaya screams and it LEAPS to the windowsill compressing impossibly thin under the window and is gone into the oily shadows as Daddy and Mommy are running down hall and Yaya’s not breathing

no one ever believed me that it was real and not a nightmare

Johnny did not notice the cold water splashing his sandaled feet as his face emerged from the coffin-cold water; his memories shattered by the shouts:

“Fish on! Get the net!”

Johnny pushed open the door; Tim’s rod was bent and his arms were taut with strain.

Johnny looked at his friend, tethered by monofilament to a denizen of the deep, and he recognized the tableau. The Aegean is the wellspring of all waters; and creatures of the abyss wait for those who believe.


The most recent stories of James Zahardis have appeared in Flashes in the Dark, Deimos eZine, 365 Tomorrows and Thrills, Kills ‘n’ Chaos. He holds a PhD from the University of Vermont in Chemistry (2008) where he is currently employed as a research scientist and lecturer. He is a fan of the literature of Joseph Conrad, Alexandre Dumas, H.P. Lovecraft, and Herman Melville. When he’s not in the laboratory, lecture hall, or library, James is most likely to be found bass fishing on Lake Champlain or taking an excursion to some woody patch to watch birds.


This story is sponsored by
Odyssey Writing Workshops — Dedicated to helping writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror improve their work, we offer one of the top workshops in the world each summer; live, interactive online classes each winter; and many free resources.

Rate this story:
 average 3.7 stars • 3 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Paul A. Freeman

    A good story hidden behind a tidal wave of adjectives and sentences with ambiguous subject-verb agreement. This piece needed tidying up, but still managed to remain engaging.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    A good story hidden behind a tidal wave of adjectives and sentences with ambiguous subject-verb agreement. This piece needed tidying up, but still managed to remain engaging.

  • If your literary heros could tell you, I think they would say something about an anemic main character. This guy is going threw the gates of hell on a yearly, and I think it in evidence, a daily basis yet he sits with his buddy drinking and fishing. You could have blown the back of my head off with this, it has all the ingredients. I would like to see more of your work.
    “Old Petey” at the beginning was a nice touch lead-in.

  • If your literary heros could tell you, I think they would say something about an anemic main character. This guy is going through the gates of hell on a yearly, and I think it in evidence, a daily basis yet he sits with his buddy drinking and fishing. You could have blown the back of my head off with this, it has all the ingredients. I would like to see more of your work.
    “Old Petey” at the beginning was a nice touch lead-in.

  • Superb writing. More comment after I get my coffees down. 5 stars.

  • Superb writing. More comment after I get my coffees down. 5 stars.

    From my IPad which Makes me grumpy.

    It’s been a long time, it seems, that i read a story that didn’t trigger my internal editor. This is one.

    Character-driven flash is my seductress, especially when tinted with a mysterious element. For me the adjectives paint a vivid pic of the setting and characters.

    I loved the recollection of Yaya’s attack, so jingle-jangle.

    And the mixing of two bubbas with the supernatural tale amid ordinary event without going overboard was balanced and effective.

  • I like ” creatures of the abyss wait for those who believe.” and I like the association of the solstice with the dark side in this narrative.

  • I like ” creatures of the abyss wait for those who believe.” and I like the association of the solstice with the dark side in this narrative.

  • Whoa. This poor guy probably functions quite nicely up until around October. As nicely as one can, knowing that as a child you caused your grandma’s death. And knowing the nightmares are going to start again soon. And IT will be back, even if all IT does is count holes.

    I’d have sided my house with colanders. Wonderful horror story,and very well written. Must study. Five stars.

    • S Conroy

      Thanks for this comment. Without it I would’ve missed that he was responsible for grandma’s death.

      • Took two readings. The army men kind of stymied me at first but I was too eager to find out how the story ended to slow down and figure them out.

  • Whoa. This poor guy probably functions quite nicely up until around October. As nicely as one can, knowing that as a child you caused your grandma’s death. And knowing the nightmares are going to start again soon. And IT will be back, even if all IT does is count holes.

    I’d have sided my house with colanders. Wonderful horror story,and very well written. Must study. Five stars.

    • S Conroy

      Thanks for this comment. Without it I would’ve missed that he was responsible for grandma’s death.

      • Took two readings. The army men kind of stymied me at first but I was too eager to find out how the story ended to slow down and figure them out.

  • Reminds me of the troll in the closet story. Boogeymen make great stories.

    I am not a fan of styles with no sentence structure or syntax at all. It really puts me off of the story. The entire flashback is a jumble of words. I think that I understand the intent and know that it was on purpose. But, I think that it makes the narrative harder to follow in this case.

    I liked the atmosphere of the story. However, I did not like wading through the flashback.

  • Reminds me of the troll in the closet story. Boogeymen make great stories.

    I am not a fan of styles with no sentence structure or syntax at all. It really puts me off of the story. The entire flashback is a jumble of words. I think that I understand the intent and know that it was on purpose. But, I think that it makes the narrative harder to follow in this case.

    I liked the atmosphere of the story. However, I did not like wading through the flashback.

  • S Conroy

    Enjoyed this story a lot overall. Mysterious and creepy and makes me think of Sigmund Freud.

    Found the quality of the writing varied. There were a couple of sentences which pulled me out and I think in both cases it’s because there is too much time between events that would be expected to follow in quick succession.

    “No, it’s not that,” Johnny said. Tendrils of the dark cloud extended earthward, accentuating the shadows on his face. “Yaya put colanders by the outside doors from Christmas to Epiphany.”

    It sounds like the action of extending takes place between the 2 sentences. I’d find this more natural with ‘accentuated ‘as the active verb and ‘extended earthward’ left out .

    Also: “Johnny shook the crab off the hook, plopping it back into the canal. He dropped the rod on the lawn and grew pale.”
    I’d prefer this without “grew” ,- He dropped the rod on the lawn, pale – since I imagine he had paled already at the sight of the creepy animal.

    The conversation itself flows very well imo. I love the description of the mutant crustacean being pulled from the water, and the italicized dream-sequence is beautiful.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      (pssst: slime alert–I waited for some at least partially like-minded company before leaving a comment today…)

      • S Conroy

        🙂

      • Carl Steiger

        Slimier yet, after letting myself fall behind, I read the comments before even deciding to READ a story, let alone deciding to comment on it.

  • S Conroy

    Enjoyed this story a lot overall. Mysterious and creepy and makes me think of Sigmund Freud (and approaching Christmas doom too!).

    Found the quality of the writing varied. There were a couple of sentences which pulled me out and I think in both cases it’s because there is too much time between events that would be expected to follow in quick succession.

    “No, it’s not that,” Johnny said. Tendrils of the dark cloud extended earthward, accentuating the shadows on his face. “Yaya put colanders by the outside doors from Christmas to Epiphany.”

    It sounds like the action of extending takes place between the 2 sentences. I’d find this more natural if you swapped the participle types to turn ‘extended’ into ‘extending’ and ‘accentuating’ into ‘accentuated’.

    Also: “Johnny shook the crab off the hook, plopping it back into the canal. He dropped the rod on the lawn and grew pale.”
    I’d prefer this without “grew” – He dropped the rod on the lawn, pale-faced – since I imagine he had paled already at the sight of the creepy animal.

    The conversations themselves flow very well imo.
    I love the description of the mutant crustacean being pulled from the water, and the italicized dream-sequence is just amazing.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      (pssst: slime alert–I waited for some at least partially like-minded company before leaving a comment today…)

      • S Conroy

        🙂

      • Carl Steiger

        Slimier yet, after letting myself fall behind, I read the comments before even deciding to READ a story, let alone deciding to comment on it.

  • joanna b.

    I’m afraid this one lost me at the title. Oddball titles meant to engage the reader by mystifying him/her sometimes backfire. This one did for me. Also, ratty screen door, rusty colander, fraying five and dime lawn chairs? I got it, I got it, I got it. I did wonder, If the colanders were so crucial to the MC, why have a rusty one? This story battered, e.g., coffin-cold water, and that reduced its impact for me. 2 stars.

  • joanna b.

    I’m afraid this one lost me at the title. Oddball titles meant to engage the reader by mystifying him/her sometimes backfire. This one did for me. Also, ratty screen door, rusty colander, fraying five and dime lawn chairs? I got it, I got it, I got it. I did wonder, If the colanders were so crucial to the MC, why have a rusty one? This story battered, e.g., coffin-cold water, and that reduced its impact for me. 2 stars.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Weird cosmic coincidence: The creature of the title featured on Friday night’s “Grimm” episode, so I was prepared by that plus Wikipedia for the particulars of the beast.

    James, I loved your previous story on EDF. This one didn’t grab me. The italicized flashback had many wonderful parts, somewhat diminished by including “Daddy” and “fulgent” in the same timeframe. Heck of an erudite kid, using that vocabulary to describe a terrifying and dreadful experience…

    I’ll look forward to your next story. No vote from me this time.

    • James Z

      Hi Sarah,
      Thanks for taking the time to read this piece and comment. I intentionally wrote the flashback with wording that reflects a child’s and adult’s voice–the adult Johnny is tormented and hung-up on an event (real or dream?) that occurred as a child, so the amalgamation of voices made sense to me.

      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

        I think choosing to do that within the italicized framework creates a little unnecessary dissonance for the reader. The italics make it clear (or should) that kid Johnny is vividly, horribly reliving that experience–which is very powerful.

        If you’d structured it differently–Johnny going back and forth within the entire narrative, “now” and “then” inextricably entangled–it might have been easier for me to appreciate the amalgamation.

        I’d also have preferred a little abstemiousness with the adjectives. Maybe lyrical elegance doesn’t quite belong in this little corner of the Everglades—

        Giving you a hard time because I do think you have an exceptional talent, and I really wanted to like this.

        • James Z

          One of the challenges I’m having with my short works is successfully incorporating elements of writing associated with modernism into stories that are essentially genre fiction. I really wanted to depict some disturbing imagery using stream-of-thought in this story.

          I wrote a draft that featured Johnny fishing by himself and going back and forth between now and then in his narrative. But I wanted dialogue in the story, so I brought in Tim. (I also wanted to depict Johnny as coping with this horrible childhood event—he has a home, friends, and probably functions as a ‘normal’ person in public.) However, when I started having Johnny go back and forth in time along with talking to another character the story became confusing. (Maybe I needed to let it sit for a while and think about the structure more critically.)

          I think the method you suggested would be great if the story were longer, because that type of structure requires that the reader has a certain amount of time to get into the beat and start to see the story through the haze—I am thinking along the lines of The Sound and the Fury and other works by Faulkner.

          Regarding the adjectives: If this was not a work of supernatural horror (or a horror derived from a person’s perception of an event they believe
          to be supernatural), I would probably agree with you. But I am of the HP Lovecraft school of thought in regards to adjectives (and wording in general) in horror fiction—I was trying to incorporate words that evoked a sense of strangeness, mystery, and dread. I did cut back on the adjectives quite a bit in revision (thanks, in part, due to suggestions from
          the EDF editorial staff), but perhaps not enough for some readers.

          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

            Well–this is just me here, no claim to knowing any better than anyone else–but I think the crucial aspect of storywriting is feeling your character in your bones. When they are real to you–not just people you want to write about but people you hear in your own head, speaking in their own voices–the story seems to almost write itself, take its own direction and finds a truthfulness you didn’t even realize you had the capacity to express.
            Then stream-of-thought is natural and real. But when the writer tries to impose structure on a story, I think that is less successful. Beauty, elegance, striking imagery–they have to serve the characters in a genuine way.
            But then, I’m not much for modernism. In the collections of short stories on my bookshelves, the ones of enduring power were often written a long time ago, and many newer ones seem tired now, after only 60 years or so. And some of the older ones are surprisingly “modern” in language and viewpoint–because they are timeless.

          • S Conroy

            Interesting this conversation.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Weird cosmic coincidence: The creature of the title featured on Friday night’s “Grimm” episode, so I was prepared by that plus Wikipedia for the particulars of the beast.

    James, I loved your previous story on EDF. This one didn’t grab me. The italicized flashback had many wonderful parts, somewhat diminished by including “Daddy” and “fulgent” in the same in-the-moment remembered timeframe. Heck of an erudite kid, using that vocabulary to describe a terrifying and dreadful experience…

    I’ll look forward to your next story. No vote from me this time.

    • James Z

      Hi Sarah,
      Thanks for taking the time to read this piece and comment. I intentionally wrote the flashback with wording that reflects a child’s and adult’s voice–the adult Johnny is tormented and hung-up on an event (real or dream?) that occurred as a child, so the amalgamation of voices made sense to me.

      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

        I think choosing to do that within the italicized framework creates a little unnecessary dissonance for the reader. The italics make it clear (or should) that kid Johnny is vividly, horribly reliving that experience–which is very powerful.

        If you’d structured it differently–Johnny going back and forth within the entire narrative, “now” and “then” inextricably entangled–it might have been easier for me to appreciate the amalgamation.

        I’d also have preferred a little abstemiousness with the adjectives. Maybe lyrical elegance doesn’t quite belong in this little corner of the Everglades—

        Giving you a hard time because I do think you have an exceptional talent, and I really wanted to like this.

        • James Z

          One of the challenges I’m having with my short works is successfully incorporating elements of writing associated with modernism into stories that are essentially genre fiction. I really wanted to depict some disturbing imagery using stream-of-thought in this story.

          I wrote a draft that featured Johnny fishing by himself and going back and forth between now and then in his narrative. But I wanted dialogue in the story, so I brought in Tim. (I also wanted to depict Johnny as coping with this horrible childhood event—he has a home, friends, and probably functions as a ‘normal’ person in public.) However, when I started having Johnny go back and forth in time along with talking to another character the story became confusing. (Maybe I needed to let it sit for a while and think about the structure more critically.)

          I think the method you suggested would be great if the story were longer, because that type of structure requires that the reader has a certain amount of time to get into the beat and start to see the story through the haze—I am thinking along the lines of The Sound and the Fury and other works by Faulkner.

          Regarding the adjectives: If this was not a work of supernatural horror (or a horror derived from a person’s perception of an event they believe
          to be supernatural), I would probably agree with you. But I am of the HP Lovecraft school of thought in regards to adjectives (and wording in general) in horror fiction—I was trying to incorporate words that evoked a sense of strangeness, mystery, and dread. I did cut back on the adjectives quite a bit in revision (thanks, in part, due to suggestions from
          the EDF editorial staff), but perhaps not enough for some readers.

          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

            Well–this is just me here, no claim to knowing any better than anyone else–but I think the crucial aspect of storywriting is feeling your characters in your bones. When they are real to you–not just people you want to write about but people you hear in your own head, speaking in their own voices–the story seems to almost write itself, take its own direction and finds a truthfulness you didn’t even realize you had the capacity to express.

            Then stream-of-thought is natural and real. But when the writer tries to impose structure on a story, I think that is less successful. Beauty, elegance, striking imagery–they have to serve the characters in a genuine way.

            But then, I’m not much for modernism. In the collections of short stories on my bookshelves, the ones of enduring power were often written a long time ago, and many newer ones seem tired now, after only 60 years or so. And some of the older ones are surprisingly “modern” in language and viewpoint–because they are timeless.

          • S Conroy

            Interesting this conversation.

  • Diane Cresswell

    Its a challenge to get a lot of depth and info into a 1000 words… as I well know and you did very well splicing flashback to present. There are a couple of minor points such as the intercoastal of Florida where I have lived and what you described is more like one of the off shoot canals as opposed to the intercoatal waterway… and I think if you lose some of the descriptive beginning putting in more character insight it would work a bit better. Now I think I will go find my colanders… oh wait I’m inland… never mind!

    • James Z

      I was in accord with your terminology, having lived in Palm Coast, Florida on the ‘canal.’ We referred to the deeper water it connected to as ‘the Intracoastal.’ In an earlier draft I referred to scene as a ‘dead-end appendage off the Florida Intracoastal Waterway,’ but trimmed back this description in revision. In part, this was because I read on the Wikipedia that the smaller canals are technically part of the Waterway. I thought that distinguishing between the canal and the Intracoastal Waterway was perhaps something done mainly in Florida.

      In retrospect, perhaps I should have referred to the scene as ‘a canal in Florida.’

      • Diane Cresswell

        Having lived there – it did come as a surprise that there are offshoots from the intracoastal until I was on a friend’s boat which was tied up at his dock on one of those offshoots… lived in Ft. Lauderdale. Found all kinds of them and never did figure out how one didn’t get lost. Most people don’t know about the canals unless you’ve been there as the intracoastal has a lot of pretty impressive homes along it.. Was just a moot point… I at first thought you were talking about the area around the Everglades… still liked the story.

  • Diane Cresswell

    Its a challenge to get a lot of depth and info into a 1000 words… as I well know and you did very well splicing flashback to present. There are a couple of minor points such as the intercoastal of Florida where I have lived and what you described is more like one of the off shoot canals as opposed to the intercoatal waterway… and I think if you lose some of the descriptive beginning putting in more character insight it would work a bit better. Now I think I will go find my colanders… oh wait I’m inland… never mind!

    • James Z

      I was in accord with your terminology, having lived in Palm Coast, Florida on the ‘canal.’ We referred to the deeper water it connected to as ‘the Intracoastal.’ In an earlier draft I referred to scene as a ‘dead-end appendage off the Florida Intracoastal Waterway,’ but trimmed back this description in revision. In part, this was because I read on the Wikipedia that the smaller canals are technically part of the Waterway. I thought that distinguishing between the canal and the Intracoastal Waterway was perhaps something done mainly in Florida.

      In retrospect, perhaps I should have referred to the scene as ‘a canal in Florida.’

      • Diane Cresswell

        Having lived there – it did come as a surprise that there are offshoots from the intracoastal until I was on a friend’s boat which was tied up at his dock on one of those offshoots… lived in Ft. Lauderdale. Found all kinds of them and never did figure out how one didn’t get lost. Most people don’t know about the canals unless you’ve been there as the intracoastal has a lot of pretty impressive homes along it.. Was just a moot point… I at first thought you were talking about the area around the Everglades… still liked the story.

  • joanna b.

    i did try to find your previous story on EDF, James. it doesn’t come up with the search machine. i checked and my first story on EDF (of three) did not come up either. so i am sorry to miss the one that Sarah praised so highly.

    maybe Camille can explain.

    it is interesting to hear about your process in your comments above to Sarah. i think, BTW, where i commented somewhat nastily (mea culpa) about the 3 adjectives (rusty, ratty, fraying) it’s because i believed all those adjectives basically gave the same information about the MC and thus not all of them were necessary.

    but i’m writing this second comment also because i realized with horror almost immediately after posting that i said nothing good about your story. i thought the death scene of Yaya was exceptionally well done. so was the hideously misshapen crustacean. and the attempt to tell the story of a death through a creature of myth: neat idea.

    • James Z

      Hi Joanna,
      Thanks for the comments. I appreciate the feedback you and other readers give me. I have to rethink my use of adjectives–as suggested by my last comment to Sarah, my horror writing style is influenced by Lovecraft who tended to use a lot of adjectives and odd, often archaic, words to sort of set the tone.

      In regards to the colanders: I intentionally wanted them (Note: there was one by the front and back door) to be old and not recently purchased from Walmart. I wanted this element to have the feel of being handed down, and being reliable, because they have worked in years past. They are probably not Johnny’s Yaya’s, but he’s probably been using them to ward off the Kallikantzaroi for many years.

      Finally, in regards to finding my other EDF story: when I put my last name in the search engine the story doesn’t pop up. It does show when I search for Zahardis Basilisk (The story is titled The Basilisk of Saint Johnssbury’s Cathedral.)

      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

        Joanna and James–click on James’ tag below this current story and both will come up.

        • James Z

          Thanks

          • joanna b.

            i did click, sarah, and the Basilisk was there, and james, i thought it was a great story, and i rated and commented. oh my, that was back in the day: only 4 comments not 40 as is now. have either or both of you read Connie Willis’ time travel books? they’re marvelous.

          • James Z

            I never read Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book but it is on my must-read list.

          • joanna b.

            yes, doomsday book was fantastic. it is about someone going back to the plague in the 13th century. however, your story reminded me more of her novels in which somebody goes back to St. Paul’s Cathedral in London trying to retrieve something before it gets bombed. anyway, there are three books in that series and they’re great. also, there’s one book with a title about “The Story about the Dog and the Boat” (something like that) and i laughed all the way through it. she is a genius.

          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

            I’m trying to limit myself to reading mysteries these days–I’ve already got too many decades of other writers’ works in my head and live in terror of having something fall out that isn’t actually the fruit of my own brain…

          • joanna b.

            i’m right with you, sarah. and i find myself reading very slowly now, when once upon a time i was a speed demon. is it age? is it the fact that reading once you’re a writer is a totally different activity than reading when you’re not a writer?

          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

            Well, it’s like the before and after of giving birth. You become something new yourself…

        • S Conroy

          Thanks for the tip, Sarah. That Basilisk was well worth the read.

  • joanna b.

    i did try to find your previous story on EDF, James. it doesn’t come up with the search machine. i checked and my first story on EDF (of three) did not come up either. so i am sorry to miss the one that Sarah praised so highly.

    maybe Camille can explain.

    it is interesting to hear about your process in your comments above to Sarah. i think, BTW, where i commented somewhat nastily (mea culpa) about the 3 adjectives (rusty, ratty, fraying) it’s because i believed all those adjectives basically gave the same information about the MC and thus not all of them were necessary.

    but i’m writing this second comment also because i realized with horror almost immediately after posting that i said nothing good about your story. i thought the death scene of Yaya was exceptionally well done. so was the hideously misshapen crustacean. and the attempt to tell the story of a death through a creature of myth: neat idea.

    • James Z

      Hi Joanna,
      Thanks for the comments. I appreciate the feedback you and other readers give me. I have to rethink my use of adjectives–as suggested by my last comment to Sarah, my horror writing style is influenced by Lovecraft who tended to use a lot of adjectives and odd, often archaic, words to sort of set the tone.

      In regards to the colanders: I intentionally wanted them (Note: there was one by the front and back door) to be old and not recently purchased from Walmart. I wanted this element to have the feel of being handed down, and being reliable, because they have worked in years past. They are probably not Johnny’s Yaya’s, but he’s probably been using them to ward off the Kallikantzaroi for many years.

      Finally, in regards to finding my other EDF story: when I put my last name in the search engine the story doesn’t pop up. It does show when I search for Zahardis Basilisk (The story is titled The Basilisk of Saint Johnssbury’s Cathedral.)

      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

        Joanna and James–click on James’ tag below this current story and both will come up.

        • James Z

          Thanks

          • joanna b.

            i did click, sarah, and the Basilisk was there, and james, i thought it was a great story, and i rated and commented. oh my, that was back in the day: only 4 comments not 40 as is now. have either or both of you read Connie Willis’ time travel books? they’re marvelous.

          • James Z

            I never read Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book but it is on my must-read list.

          • joanna b.

            yes, doomsday book was fantastic. it is about someone going back to the plague in the 13th century. however, your story reminded me more of her novels in which somebody goes back to St. Paul’s Cathedral in London trying to retrieve something before it gets bombed. anyway, there are three books in that series and they’re great. also, there’s one book with a title about “The Story about the Dog and the Boat” (something like that) and i laughed all the way through it. she is a genius.

          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

            I’m trying to limit myself to reading mysteries these days–I’ve already got too many decades of other writers’ works in my head and live in terror of having something fall out that isn’t actually the fruit of my own brain…

          • joanna b.

            i’m right with you, sarah. and i find myself reading very slowly now, when once upon a time i was a speed demon. is it age? is it the fact that reading once you’re a writer is a totally different activity than reading when you’re not a writer?

          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

            Well, it’s like the before and after of giving birth. You become something new yourself…

        • S Conroy

          Thanks for the tip, Sarah. That Basilisk was well worth the read.

  • Carl Steiger

    I learned something today. I knew a kallikanzaros was some sort of a Greek goblin (from a reference in a Roger Zelazny novel) bit I did not know they were associated with Christmas. Anyway, this is a welcome change of pace from the usual yuletide fare.

  • Carl Steiger

    I learned something today. I knew a kallikanzaros was some sort of a Greek goblin (from a reference in a Roger Zelazny novel) bit I did not know they were associated with Christmas. Anyway, this is a welcome change of pace from the usual yuletide fare.